September 8, 2021 - 2:15pm

In 1999, The Guardian ran a piece on an annual prize for bad writing, which celebrates “the most stylistically lamentable passages found in scholarly books and articles”. The only condition for entry was that no parody was allowed. The winner was Judith Butler, for this:

The move from a structuralist account in which capital is understood to structure social relations in relatively homologous ways to a view of hegemony in which power relations are subject to repetition, convergence, and re-articulation brought the question of temporality into the thinking of structure, and marked a shift from a form of Althusserian theory that takes structural totalities…
- Judith Butler

This week, The Guardian ran an interview with Butler who boldly stated that: “…we should not be surprised or opposed when the category of women expands to include trans women.” Here, Butler’s argument is much more clear: the category of women must be expanded to include men.

While I don’t contest that Butler is a bad writer, it appears to me that her linguistic obfuscation serves a purpose. Butler follows the post-modernist school of feminist thought, hoping to “disrupt” the categories of gender, thereby rendering it meaningless. Of course, such a proposition is ridiculous.

If we can put on and take off our gender, then that means we can also decide to identify our way out of oppression. Girls in menstrual huts in Nepal; teenagers being forced into marriage; girls and women being bought and sold in the global sex trade; women everywhere being raped and then disbelieved and blamed – all of this can be dealt with if we simply perform a different gender expression. Somehow I am not convinced that performing as a Drag King will solve the problem of misogyny.

In the same recent interview, the reporter asks: ‘This year’s furore around Wi Spa in Los Angeles saw an online outrage by transphobia followed by bloody protests organised by the Proud Boys. Can we expect this alliance to continue?”

To which Butler suggests that TERFs (as she so lovingly refers to feminists who defend our sex-based rights) act as fascist enablers:

The TERFs…will not be part of the coalition that seeks to fight the anti-gender movement. The anti-gender ideology is one of the dominant strains of fascism in our time. So, the TERFS will not be part of the contemporary struggle against fascism… It seems that some within feminist movements are becoming sympathetic to these far right campaigns.
- Judith Butler, The Guardian

Only hours later, the entire mention of the Wi Spa incident — both the interviewer’s question and Butler’s response — was removed from The Guardian website, with a comment added at the end: “This article was edited on 7 September 2021 to reflect developments which occurred after the interview took place.”

What developments? Did Left-wing feminists such as myself who critique extreme transgender ideology suddenly stop being fascists? Or could it be that the comments about women complaining about a naked male-bodied person in the female-only steam room gained significance following the arrest of a convicted sex offender?

The protest by women at a registered sex offender allegedly flashing several women and a girl was painted not only by Butler but also by the Guardian in previous articles as a Right-wing transphobic attack. The fact that it was subsequently removed suggests the paper has tied itself up in knots and can’t find a way out, other than censoring material it should never have published in the first place.

Feminism for Women: The Real Route to Liberation by Julie Bindel is published by Little, Brown

Julie Bindel is an investigative journalist, author, and feminist campaigner. Her latest book is Feminism for Women: The Real Route to Liberation. She also writes on Substack.