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May 11 2014

Somebody put a slight check on the Daily Mail? Unbelievable.

Kate Stone was the victim of a genuinely bizarre accident: she startled a deer as she was walking home one night, and it charged her and gored her in the throat with its antlers. That’s weird and kind of perversely newsworthy, so take a look at the headlines describing the stabbing.

With honourable exceptions, such as the BBC, coverage in the British media majored on Stone’s transgender status: "Deer spears sex-swap Kate"; "Sex swap scientist in fight for life"; and "Sex-swap scientist gored by stag."

It must be interesting to know that if one is transgender, you can almost die in a spectacularly unusual encounter with an exotic animal, and all the news will be focused on your crotch. I’ve done a lot of interviews, and strangely, not one has dwelt at length on my sex. I suspect I could die and my obituary here in Morris might not even mention that I’m a man, unless they use a masculine pronoun somewhere in it.

Say, isn’t that an example of something called privilege?

Anyway, the good news is that the newspapers’ offenses were so blatant that they’ve actually admitted that they were in the wrong, and the articles have been withdrawn.

Now, as a result of a landmark negotiation with the Press Complaints Commission (PCC), six national newspapers – the Daily Mail, the Daily Telegraph, the Sun, the Scottish Sun, the Daily Record and the Daily Mirror – have agreed that the "sex swap" headlines and the reference to Stone’s transgender status were inappropriate.

They acknowledged that such references constituted a direct breach of the discrimination clause in the PCC editors’ code. The code states that details of an individual’s transgender status "must be avoided unless genuinely relevant to the story". All such references were subsequently withdrawn from the newspapers’ online stories.

The Daily Mail confessed to going too far and publishing inappropriate, sensationalist garbage? Stop the presses! That’s real news!

33 comments

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  1. 1
    Al Dente

    Note that it took action by the Press Complaints Commission to get the Daily Heil to admit their “mistake”.

  2. 2
    azhael

    Hmmm….smells of progress? Certainly it’s pretty fucking sad that so many newspapers originally thought that those headlines were in any way appropriate, let alone the thing to run with, but at least the outcome is rather possitive. Next time there might not even be a stupid fucking headline like that in the first place….maybe….

    In relatively similar news:
    It was “interesting” to see people’s reactions to last night’s eurovision contest with regards to Austria’s Conchita Wurst. Even progressive liberals were completely lost as to how to refer to him/her/them. It’s not an individual who has transitioned, so is it a he? But they are very clearly pressenting themselves as female even if it’s just in this particular context, so it should be a she, right? But…the beard…and the lack of breasts, it implies this is just an artistic persona, not an identity? So….*head exploding*

  3. 3
    colnago80

    I had what could have been a similar experience while biking on the WO&D trail in Vienna, Va. several years ago. This was during rutting season when male deer are particularly aggressive. I encountered a male deer with a large rack standing just off the trail about 50 feet downstream giving me a dirty look. I decided that the best strategy was to keep pedaling towards him with increased speed. He finally backed off and beat a hasty retreat.

  4. 4
    Ibis3, Let's burn some bridges

    Acknowledging that this phenomenon is pervasive & far more sensationalised and awful when it comes to transgender people, I notice it happening to women in the news as well. Just last week, a woman was killed by a bear while on the job in Alberta’s tarsands, and all the initial news reports (i.e. before she was identified) had to point out that she was a *female* worker. If she’d been a man, they’d have just said “an oilsands worker” or “technician” or what have you. For some reason, the media thought it was relevant that she died without having a penis.

  5. 5
    mikeyb

    Was it an expression of a modicum of humanity or a last second fear of reprisals for the obvious nastiness, more likely the latter.

  6. 6
    PZ Myers

    the media thought it was relevant that she died without having a penis.

    Well, that was an especially poignant part of the tragedy, don’t you think?

  7. 7
    cim

    Al Dente: though given that the PCC was set up by the newspapers to ensure that they remained unaccountable to anyone not rich enough to afford top lawyers – its “Editors Code of Practice committee” is chaired by the editor of the Mail – the article has to be several miles over the line before it’ll do anything … and so the consequences are:
    – a few online articles corrected months after the damage has been done
    – one non-binding undertaking not to do it again

    Not that I have any idea how one should go about regulating the press. Anyone nominally powerful enough to do it by definition can’t be trusted to.

  8. 8
    The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge

    ibis3 @ #4:

    the media thought it was relevant that she died without having a penis.

    Just trying to get this straight in my head….

    So the hierarchy of newsworthiness is: Died with a penis, having always had one…yawn. Died without a penis…more newsworthy. Died having recently acquired a penis…most newsworthy. At least until some disembodied penis like one of Aldiss’ pudendolls gets killed in some horrible accident. Keeping my eyes peeled for that.

  9. 9
    The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge

    I meant to type “relinquished or acquired a penis” but my hands got ahead of my brain. Happens frequently.

  10. 10
    zenlike

    Please remember that little over a year ago, the Daily Hail bullied a trans woman to her death.

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/zinniajones/2013/03/trans-woman-commits-suicide-after-being-bullied-by-the-daily-mail/

    So yeah, I think they still need to go a long way before everything fine.

  11. 11
    The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge

    slc1 @ #3:

    You didn’t have a 20-megaton bomb with you?

  12. 12
    Sassafras

    This was a chilling thing for me to read:

    On radio, one ‘expert’ was asked, ‘Was Kate gored by a stag because she was transgender?’

    People are so convinced that hate for transgender people is appropriate that they’re trying to make it seem like a natural instinctual reaction for animals to attack us. Like we’re fucking monsters in a horror movie or something.

  13. 13
    left0ver1under

    Tyra Hunter died 19 years ago, and attitudes haven’t changed since.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tyra_Hunter

  14. 14
    anthrosciguy

    This was a chilling thing for me to read:

    On radio, one ‘expert’ was asked, ‘Was Kate gored by a stag because she was transgender?’

    People are so convinced that hate for transgender people is appropriate that they’re trying to make it seem like a natural instinctual reaction for animals to attack us. Like we’re fucking monsters in a horror movie or something.

    We do live in a world where news readers on a major 24-hour news channel will ask if a missing airplane might have been sucked into a black hole.

  15. 15
    azhael

    On radio, one ‘expert’ was asked, ‘Was Kate gored by a stag because she was transgender?’

    Fuck, i hate the media..i seriously do…not all of it but so much of it that a generalization is justified.

  16. 16
    woozy

    On radio, one ‘expert’ was asked, ‘Was Kate gored by a stag because she was transgender?’

    I can think of three explanations for this question:

    1. It was rhetorical and meant to bring attention to the emphasis of reporting about her being transgendered when it wasn’t pertinent.
    2. Reporters just have a automatic habitual response to put X and B causally together in statements without even thinking that in this case, the reporter didn’t even think about how bizarre and stupid the question was.
    3. The reporter *was* that stupid.

    I’d like to believe 1 and 1 is feasible. (It’s the type of snarky thing I might say.) I’ve seen unthinking reporters on autopilot so 2 is entirely feasible albeit it humorously stupid. And of course we’ve all seen fox-type reporters do 3 and it’s feasible as well although tiresomely depressing.

    So I have no idea. #1 makes me feel good. #2 amuses me in a superior and condescending way. #3 just depresses and frustrates me.

  17. 17
    Sassafras

    woozy @ 16 –

    It wouldn’t have been #1, because it was Kate Stone herself that mentioned it, in the context of being abused by the media. She wouldn’t have brought it up if it was someone ridiculing the media abuse rather than perpetuating it.

    #2 and #3 are both just depressing to me in different ways.

  18. 18
    profpedant

    “Say, isn’t that an example of something called privilege?”

    I really wish that people would stop using the word “privilege” to mean “was treated in a reasonable and respectful manner the way that everyone should be treated”. Decrying fair and reasonable treatment as ‘privilege’ sets up an assumption that if you are ‘against privilege’ you are ‘against treating people fairly’.

    We are not literally equal, and there are differences that do matter, but having gender, race, age, or any of many many many more characteristics irrelevant to whatever is being discussed introduced as ‘important’, does not demonstrate a ‘lack of privilege’ – it demonstrates that irrelevant characteristics are being assigned too much importance. If that ‘false importance’ is derogatory it means that someone is being denied the kind of fair and respectful treatment that we should all receive from others. Being treated fairly and respectfully is not a privilege – it is something that everyone should promulgate and receive.

    If the ‘false importance’ of irrelevant characteristics results in better treatment* than most people receive I can see referring to that as ‘privilege’, but that usage is uncommon when someone decries ‘privilege’, and in any case: Being treated fairly and respectfully is not a privilege – it is something that everyone should promulgate and receive.

    * Legacy admissions to a college are one of the few examples I can think of where the discussion sometimes focuses on the advantage to the ‘privileged’ individual and not on the how someone else is not being treated fairly, equally, or respectfully. And even then the point that a ‘legacy admission’ means that someone else qualified to be admitted does not get to attend that school is not far away at all.

    I am anti-privilege because I want people to be treated fairly, respectfully, and with an equality that we individually experience as enhancing the value of our individual differences. I am not anti-privilege because I want everyone to suffer as much as those who are commonly referred to as ‘unprivileged’.

  19. 19
    microraptor

    We do live in a world where news readers on a major 24-hour news channel will ask if a missing airplane might have been sucked into a black hole.

    Asking if a missing plane might have been sucked into a black hole indicates a lack of cognitive ability on the part of the questioner.

    Asking if a woman was attacked by a wild animal because she was transgendered, as if that somehow made her Wilbur Whateley’s half-sibling, indicates both a lack of cognitive ability and a certain level of douchebaggery on the part of the questioner. Can you imagine the outrage if the individual had said “Do you think she was attacked by the stag because she was [race]?”

  20. 20
    ck

    @profpedant,

    There are two definitions of privilege. One is the individual born with a silver spoon in their mouth, that you’re referring to when talking about legacy admissions, etc. The other is the freedom to not have to worry about being treated poorly just because of circumstances that are beyond your control. The concepts aren’t entirely unrelated, and I’m not terribly pleased that two somewhat similar but distinct concepts are sharing the same word, but both concepts are important.

    Also, to quote someone, place the quote in these tags:
    <blockquote>your quote here</blockquote>
    produces:

    your quote here

  21. 21
    Ibis3, Let's burn some bridges

    @ profpedant #18

    Blockquote>I really wish that people would stop using the word “privilege” to mean “was treated in a reasonable and respectful manner the way that everyone should be treated”.

    The thing is, being treated in a reasonable and respectful manner the way everyone should be treated *is* a privilege of being (the right kind of) human. If at any point you stray from having the right qualities (e.g. whiteness, maleness, cisness, straightness, Christian-ness, wealthiness), you’re considered that much less of a person that requires a default level of respect.

  22. 22
    Ibis3, Let's burn some bridges

    Let me try that again:

    @ profpedant #18

    I really wish that people would stop using the word “privilege” to mean “was treated in a reasonable and respectful manner the way that everyone should be treated”.

    The thing is, being treated in a reasonable and respectful manner the way everyone should be treated *is* a privilege of being (the right kind of) human. If at any point you stray from having the right qualities (e.g. whiteness, maleness, cisness, straightness, Christian-ness, wealthiness), you’re considered that much less of a person that requires a default level of respect.

  23. 23
    Ibis3, Let's burn some bridges

    @ profpedant #18

    Sorry for the series of posts. I thought more on this after having posted my previous (two). When we say we want to get rid of or (more realistically) mitigate privilege by consciousness raising and determined efforts to compensate for it, what we’re actually saying is that we want to do away with the “private law” that makes reasonable respect accessible only to those with the “right” attributes, not that we want to do away with reasonable respect itself.

  24. 24
    Tigger_the_Wing, Back home =^_^=

    23, Ibis3, Let’s burn some bridges,

    That’s the point. We get rid of privilege when everybody gets the same treatment that only the currently privileged do.

  25. 25
    thetalkingstove

    We are not literally equal, and there are differences that do matter

    I’m not really sure what these ‘differences that do matter’ are? Outside of a very limited list (e.g. cis-men not being able to give birth) there’s really very little reason to deny particular jobs/roles/freedoms to anyone.

    Remember that we live in a world culture which has defined roles for people, not that these roles are right and proper and naturally led to our culture.

  26. 26
    Bronze Dog

    Acknowledging that this phenomenon is pervasive & far more sensationalised and awful when it comes to transgender people, I notice it happening to women in the news as well. Just last week, a woman was killed by a bear while on the job in Alberta’s tarsands, and all the initial news reports (i.e. before she was identified) had to point out that she was a *female* worker. If she’d been a man, they’d have just said “an oilsands worker” or “technician” or what have you. For some reason, the media thought it was relevant that she died without having a penis.

    I sometimes fall into an autopilot mode on that sort of thing, reflexively noting deviations from white male in descriptions when gender, race, and other attributes aren’t relevant. Being white and male myself, it takes a bit of extra effort to maintain vigilance against it. I think I’ve been doing it less often, but it still happens on occasion.

    I can understand someone making the same mistake, but I recognize that’s a reason to bring the issue into the spotlight. The fact that it’s an easy mistake to make shouldn’t be used as an excuse to maintain a bad habit. It’s habitual in part because we’re often not aware we’ve done it, and being made aware encourages the self-consciousness needed to break the habit. Since many of us do it without ill intent, there’s also the temptation to assert the misunderstanding wasn’t our fault and thus rationalize inaction, rather than learn to communicate our intentions more effectively.

  27. 27
    Bernard Bumner

    In the wake of the Leveson Enquiry into Press Standards the British print media has been desperately trying to prove that it can responsibly police itself (after decades of failed self-regulation) so that it can avoid statutory regulation.

    I would love to think that this story represents a realshift in culture, but I suspect that it really represents the school bully telling the head teacher that he is really, really sorry this time.

  28. 28
    WMDKitty -- Survivor

    The Daily Mail confessed to going too far and publishing inappropriate, sensationalist garbage?

    *checks thermostat*

  29. 29
    ck

    @Bernard Bumner,

    There certainly are shades of “I promise not to say ‘sex swap’ next time. I’ll pick entirely different degrading words next time.”

  30. 30
    twas brillig (stevem)

    ibis3 @ #4:

    the media thought it was relevant that she died without having a penis.

    To simplify BronzeDog, I think the news was trying to point out that the TarSands Co not only hires men, but they even employ women, and unfortunately one of those women got killed in this tragic accident. If they didn’t mention the victim was a women, all their audience would just assume the victim was a man.
    - But that is the most generous interpretation of that news report, maybe your outrage is justified: that they had to point out the victim was a women to increase their ratings, etc. etc.
    What I interpreted Bronzy to be saying was that the real outrage should be that male is the default, when it was a woman it must be trumpeted to prevent her from being assumed to be male.
    .
    Trans* completely boggles these binary thinkers.

  31. 31
    Ibis3, Let's burn some bridges

    @twasbrillig #30

    To simplify BronzeDog, I think the news was trying to point out that the TarSands Co not only hires men, but they even employ women,

    First, the assumption should automatically be that A Random Worker could be a man or a woman, given that Alberta has a Human Rights Code that prevents TarSandsCo from discriminating according to gender.

    Second, the fact that, yes, there are real women on the job in the oil patch is irrelevant to a news story about a lethal bear attack.

    If they didn’t mention the victim was a women, all their audience would just assume the victim was a man.

    But by pointing it out, the media is justifying that assumption. An assumption which would be cleared up as soon as the identity of the victim was released in any case.

    maybe your outrage is justified: that they had to point out the victim was a women to increase their ratings, etc. etc.

    I’m not outraged. I’m disappointed that even in a story such as this–where the focus ought to be on the tragedy of a person being killed on the job by an unlucky encounter with a bear (who probably wouldn’t have been near a human encampment in the first place had the winter not been so harsh), the media had to throw some sexism into their reporting. I doubt they did it for ratings.

    What I interpreted Bronzy to be saying was that the real outrage should be that male is the default, when it was a woman it must be trumpeted to prevent her from being assumed to be male.

    That is indeed disappointing. But how much better just to report the incident as though women were just as expected to be there and let people have whatever sexist assumptions they might have be their own to correct? If the topic were about women working in the tar sands or some other story in which gender were relevant, that would be whole different thing.

    {Apologies if this is too far off topic; I don’t want to detract from the additional travesties faced by the treatment of trans people in the media raised in the OP.}

  32. 32
    Moggie

    twas brillig (stevem):

    To simplify BronzeDog, I think the news was trying to point out that the TarSands Co not only hires men, but they even employ women, and unfortunately one of those women got killed in this tragic accident. If they didn’t mention the victim was a women, all their audience would just assume the victim was a man.

    It’s like you don’t even know how to English. If you feel you must tell the reader the victim’s gender, that’s what gendered pronouns are for. “The company said that the employee’s name won’t be released without the consent of her family”. There you go: that single sentence is all a report needs to let the reader know the victim’s gender, and it’s done in a way which doesn’t club the reader over the head with the dead person’s unusual womanness.

  33. 33
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    profpedant @18:

    The term “privilege,” despite having an extensive history of commonly understood and vaguely related usage virtually guaranteeing the sort of confusion you’re experiencing, has been adopted by sociologists and social justices advocates as a term of art to describe the situation in which a person is treated better than others are, due to their perceived membership in a group which is more socially powerful or favored.

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