Terf war reignites at Guardian HQ

9 September 2021

8:14 PM

9 September 2021

8:14 PM

Few issues divide the Guardian’s right-on journalists more than transgender rights. Back in November its longtime columnist Suzanne Moore was purged after an internal denunciation about her writings on the subject; in July its (current) columnist Owen Jones took aim at sister paper the Observer for a leader in support of free speech.

Plenty of gossip is doing the rounds as to what the fate of those on the ‘gender critical’ side of the argument will be. Editor-in-Chief Editor Kath Viner is said to live in fear of the paper’s woke readers and staffers, 300 of whom signed a letter lambasting Moore for claiming that biological sex is real and it is not transphobic to say so.

Now though a fresh shot has been fired in the ongoing war of the woke. A key section of an interview with gender academic Judith Butler has been pulled from the Guardian’s website in which she compares ‘anti-gender ideology’ to fascism. A whole question and answer was removed from the article by the site’s editors, which included Butler’s use of the pejorative term ‘TERFs’, or trans exclusionary radical feminists.

Butler said the fact that ‘trans-exclusionary feminists have allied with right-wing attacks on gender’ was ‘appalling and sometimes quite frightening’, adding: ‘the TERFs and the so-called gender critical writers have also rejected the important work in feminist philosophy of science showing how culture and nature interact… in favour of a regressive and spurious form of biological essentialism.’

For those asking, I see no harm in sharing it as it’s everywhere else. This is Judith Butler speaking to the Guardian before being edited.

— Juno Dawson (@junodawson) September 7, 2021

Butler continued: ‘Anti-gender ideology is one of the dominant strains of fascism in our times’ meaning that such critics ‘will not be part of the contemporary struggle against fascism.’

The academic was responding to a question by interviewer Jules Gleeson which referenced an incident at Wi Spa, a Korean spa in Los Angeles. Claims that a trans-woman had exposed themselves in the women’s section of the spa went viral and led to violent protests, the Guardian has previously reported.

However it was the mentioning of this incident and the failure to include the latest facts in the case that led to the paper taking the question and answer down in full, according to a statement given to Press Gazette. A spokesman said:

On 7 September 2021, the Guardian edited a Q&A with Judith Butler as one question, posed by the Guardian, failed to take account of new facts regarding the incident at Wi Spa, which emerged late last week after the interview took place and the piece was written. In light of those developments, the question regarding Wi Spa in the interview should have been reviewed again prior to publication, but this did not happen. This is a departure from our usual editorial standards. We have not censored Judith Butler but addressed a failure in our editorial standards. This particular question omitted the new details that had come to light, and therefore risked misleading our readers.

Still, Steerpike understands the move has not gone down well within those supportive of Butler at Graun towers. Already a social media backlash has triggered a wave of complaints amid accusations of cowardice from opponents of gender critics. Mr S wonders just where this will all end…


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