Ms Moore's original usage of "Brazilian transsexual" was, I think, meant to be complimentary:
"We are angry with ourselves for not being happier, not being loved properly and not having the ideal body shape – that of a Brazilian transsexual."Like I said, it's a clumsy trope; the article itself is either a bit "postmodern bullshit" or it's a somewhat incoherent piece that would have been more at home on a blog than the pages of the New Statesman. Her defensive essay is precisely that - quite defensive, and she employs a line of reasoning that is, to be quite blunt, baffling at best.
And then there was the Twitter battle - a great place to do linguistic combat. Such wordplay couldn't happen on a more erudite medium... Anyway, it all ended in tears and Ms Moore abandoning Twitter. Being silenced for voicing a slightly incoherent thought. She ended her side of the conversation with anger:
|Picture of tweet taken from Storify article/page/whatever-it's-called|
The manifestly clumsy "Brazilian transsexual" wasn't transphobia - it was a clumsy attempt at a compliment. A sweeping generalization, a small self-deprecation. It was maladroit. It was not hateful. That her defense of her usage was graceless and incoherent doesn't reduce her intent to be a bit self-deprecating in an essentially dull essay.
Ms Burchill obviously sensed an opportunity to give her hated "trannies" a metaphorical kick in the proverbials, and The Observer obliged. As they do when there's a bit of a fracas to be had. Ms Burchill's drab little trolling was obviously worth the considerable effort she put into it. Personally speaking, I think she made a list of possible insults and ticked them off as she sneered her way through her Bolly or whatever. Those she couldn't easily fit into her miserable diatribe, she simply inserted with no regard for coherence or sense. Not that I'd ever accuse her attempting to be understood; that putridly acid effort is surely her greatest achievement; it is not just somewhat coherent, it can be understood by its author as well as its reader. She even managed to put her inarticulate anger into sentences, although we should probably thank her editor for that accomplishment. As a piece that was intended to strike, and deeply, it clearly succeeded. As a piece thats only hope lies in how miserable it could be, how miserable and hateful its author is, that it accomplishes with alacrity. As a piece that shows the writer in a poor light, as a shoddy, vindictive bitch, it succeeds beyond any and all hope.
In this whole quarrel, almost no one emerges with honor. Suzanne Moore is driven from Twitter - a magnificent achievement, folks, worthy of at least two Dunkirk's - and Julie Burchill allows a glimpse of the depth of her blind bigotry. A few on Twitter deserve nothing but opprobrium for their needless vilification of Ms Moore. It was unfair; just the sheer numbers against her put her at a disadvantage. She clearly unprepared for such a barrage of hostility; she got angry and didn't explain herself too well. Julie Burchill, on the other hand, is an old hand at verbal brawls; she enjoys them. She didn't lose much honor in this tussle because she didn't start with much; "honor" is not a concept that enjoys much nourishment in her lexicon. And whatever "respect" she has starved to death, the poor thing.
Freedom of speech means that the hideous gets the same opportunity as the virtuous. It doesn't mean there's an obligation to listen. What it does mean is that no one should be silenced as Ms Moore was; in the modern world, we have many venues for speech - disallowing, by the continual harrowing and cajoling of someone, the privilege of using one of the more common ones is nothing more than mob-enforced censorship. Ms Moore has a right to articulate her anger as best she can; she has a right to use analogies in her storytelling. That some don't like one particular analogy, that it was a clumsily phrased analogy, should not be the cause of righteous anger that ends up berating her into silence. That is a "crime" Julie Burchill, et al, frequently lay at the feet of the "trannies" - they now have ample evidence to convict.
As someone who knows some of the power of words, I have to say that a clumsy analogy and a careless reading of it should not lead to the anger that resulted. The only good thing that came out of it all was the very public airing of how deep Julie Burchill's transphobia goes. It provides a good indicator to the similar hatred in others. That The Observer did not shy from putting that on display, from shining a bright spotlight upon it, is to be applauded. Let us hope they don't feel a need for such applause on any future occasion.