Owen Jones and the Venerable Beard

Noam Chomsky

In which Owen Jones struggles with a difficult idea: Chomsky reminds Jones of the hard road women have had to get their basic rights acknowledged.

As you can see from the eyebrows, this is hard going for Jones, who still hasn’t grasped even the precariousness of his own history, let alone women’s – and has something in mind that he’s desperately, desperately hoping that Chomsky, that revered elder of the radical left, is not going to say to him. Here, Dennis Kavanagh explains the situation from a gay man’s point of view…

Chart: 'the evolution of the concept of the homosexusal
Dennis Kavanash’s commentary on substack

If you’re wondering why Jones struggles with the idea that women deserve any sort of acknowledgement from political commentators, and why gay men in particular need to grasp that, here is Ricky Gervais, parodying the kind of comments Owen Jones and his tribe tend to make on Twitter…

They have, you see, been led up the garden path by a corporate-funded counter-attack on women’s and gay rights that has been building ever since #MeToo shook the foundations.

Key facts in the UK:

The people we used to be allowed to call transsexuals have been around for decades. They got legal acknowledgement in the GRA act of 2004, and have their own exemption in the 2010 Equality Act. According to transsexual friends of mine, who are socialists and have read books, they weren’t doing too badly until the current controversy over ‘trans rights’ came along. They may be in a small minority within a minority group, but they really feel all the difficulties Tory austerity has created for all of us, and they do face discrimination sometimes, so they still need to campaign for their own status.

I know it is frowned upon to speak on behalf of another oppressed group, but when that group is very small, and caught in a pincer-trap where they’re liable to be shouted down from all sides, it’s easier for me than it is for them, to say that they could really do without being dragged into an acrimonious and wrong-headed ‘rights’ battle. What they particularly do not need are those reforms currently being demanded under the banner of ‘trans rights’, and amplified with the slogan ‘transwomen are women’ – nor do they welcome the inevitable clash with women’s rights that those demands create.

So who is driving the ‘trans rights’ movement? I see men, I see rent-a-mob, I see fever-eyed, hyped up young women, and I see the police and the commentators favouring them over women’s rights activists in every street clash. Who are they, and what do they actually stand for?

It took a good hundred years of increasingly risky political activism for the suffragettes to win (most of) the argument for women’s votes. Women were not allowed control of their own bank accounts until the 1970s – depending on your age, that might seem historical but for my generation, well within living memory. Same sex marriage was finally fully legalized in 2014, only 8 years ago – and even now, women are still battling to keep reproductive rights in place. Those women took real risks, and suffered real harm, both from the police at the demos and from the media and the law.

Neither women nor transsexuals have finished securing their place as full citizens. Same-sex attracted people still have a lot of problems. Women activists are, and have always been, a major part in the campaign for gay and lesbian rights, as well as women’s rights. Shouting down activist women is not going to help any of those groups and on the whole, it is not those groups shouting at women.

We have had less than a decade of lesbian, gay and female people being able to live on broadly equal terms with mainstream males, and the likes of Owen Jones are already signed up to a corporate funded, capitalist, individualist movement that pushes all of us back into the field marked ‘unacceptable’.

The so-called trans rights movement is not a natural part of the radical left. In fact, I believe it is the most successful part of the backlash against it.


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