I’ve been contemplating writing a review of Sheila Jeffreys’ published conspiracy theory, Gender Hurts, in order to educate on the roots of some academic/feminist trans-antagonism. I hadn’t entirely recovered from the migraine since the first time I read it, so it was a project I was not looking forward to. Thankfully, I’ve discovered that somebody else has done this work for me. Roz Kaveney writes at Glamourous Rags:
Language is, for Jeffreys, something to be used carefully to deny the existence of choices of which she disapproves. For example, she uses ‘prostitute’ only as a passive transitive verb, because she is of the opinion that no sex worker has any autonomy. She refers to ‘transgenderism’ as if it were an ideology rather than a complex of needs and choices, and has turned ‘transgender’ into a verb. She prides herself on always using the pronouns she regards as correct rather than those trans people have chosen for themselves; she explains at length that this is a matter of principle, rather than mere childish rudeness. At the same time, she regards the adoption of the value-free term cis to denote anyone not trans as a vile and insulting piece of abuse.
Jeffreys is very keen to deny personal animus, though her grasp of strict truth is often lacking. She talks of a conference she was to speak at being banned from the C onway Hall, rather than of its organizers having been reminded that they needed to observe the hall’s regulations about hate speech and declined to do so. She cites this occasion as evidence of a ‘McCarthyite’ conspiracy to silence her, as she does the existence of a number of mildly successful trans journalists – all of whom mostly write on other matters. (Sheila Jeffreys remains, of course, a tenured academic in spite of this cabal.) She also denies that she is guilty of hate speech in spite of a passage in which she claims that the genitals of trans women who have had surgery stink.
This passage is worth commenting on because she relies on a Dutch study of the bacterial flora of those private parts (Weyers 2000), but both distorts its results and fails to criticize its protocols. Tge Weyers study notes occasional unpleasant discharges in a fifth of its population – because it relies on literature for its comparison of flora, the study is mute on the frequency of such discharges in cis women. The protocol also asked its subjects not to wash their genitals for three days and did not consider the effect of this on the degree to which faecal bacteria were present – nor does Jeffreys. The study does, however notice that lesbian trans women had a flora closer to the cis norm – Jeffreys does not mention this correlation, for whatever reason.
Read more of Roz’s review here.