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Rosie Duffield thinks it ‘deeply frightening’ that ‘you have to write womxn with an x’

Josh Milton March 8, 2021
Rosie Duffield speaking via video uplink against a white room

Labour MP Rosie Duffield on BBC's Politics Live. (Screen capture via Twitter/@BBCPolitics)

Labour’s Rosie Duffield appeared on the BBC’s Politics Live Monday afternoon (8 March) to fend off accusations of “transphobia” as well as say that the term “womxn” is “frightening”.

She also said that people with similar viewpoints to her own are being “silenced” on social media. She, you know, said this… on a nationally broadcast programme. Yes. Silenced. Very much so.

The British politician for the opposition party has drawn criticism from LGBT+ advocates, as well as Labour’s LGBT+ wing and top trade unions, for her relationship with trans rights in the past.

Speaking from Westminster, London, the Canterbury MP appeared on the panel to discuss Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s explosive interview with Oprah Winfrey, when the subject of social media came up.

Host Jo Coburn brought up how Duffield has vastly distanced herself from Twitter since last year when she waded into an online row about who has a cervix.

Asked if the experience has made her cautious about social media, Duffield bluntly responded: “No.”

She added: “Social media is a cesspit, and it’s particularly awful for women in the public eye and women MPs. We’ve all seen what’s happened with Diane Abbott, Jess Phillips and others. You’re not allowed an opinion some people don’t agree with.

“In this particular instance, I didn’t even particularly express my opinion, I liked someone else’s tweet and was piled-in on.

“It’s a debate and a discussion,” she added, “and I don’t think that we should have one bit of an argument ending up as the ‘right’ one and everyone else should be cancelled.

“It’s really toxic and we should all be allowed to discuss these things in a safe way. Obviously, Twitter just isn’t the sort of platform for that and social media in general.

“It’s just a shame the way people get categorised, silenced and piled-in on and I think it just discourages a proper, grown-up conversation.”

In framing trans rights as a so-called ‘debate’, some top human rights experts have said that Britain has become “damaged” by “toxicity”.

This was echoed by fellow panellist Zing Tsjeng, who drew attention to how trans activist and model Munroe Bergdorf was “driven off […] Twitter because of the amount of bullying and harassment she’s received”.

The Vice UK executive editor stressed that as a lawmaker Duffield’s “actions have weight and they have merit”.

“Even by favouriting a tweet, for instance,” she continued, “and refusing to back down on it, you’re contributing to a toxic atmosphere in which transgender rights are considered up for debate when they’re not.

“It also contributes towards this atmosphere that transgender people can and should be questioned when, in fact, trans people in daily life are subject to enormous amounts of harassment, both offline and online.”

In one startling figure that activists say signals the depth of anger felt against trans people in Britain, four in five trans people were a victim of a hate crime in 2020, according to LGBT+ anti-violence charity Galop.

“As MPs, people with a responsibility to conduct themselves in a way that is inclusive and respectful – especially if you’re a Labour MP a party that claims to all be about equality,” Tsjeng added.

Duffield responded that she has since “broadened” her understanding of trans rights. Language, she added, “is important, and the idea that you have to write women with an x now or stop using the word woman or talk about biological sex is deeply frightening”.

LGBT+ folks in particular definitely are not asking people to use the phrase “womxn”.

The word has a conflicted history, with its intentions of trans-inclusivity clashing with transphobes recently using it to delegitimise trans women’s identities.

While trans women and advocates have expressed frustration at the phrase, arguing “women” is already trans-inclusive. Because, well, trans women are women.

Rosie Duffield ‘transphobia row: What happened?

In August 2020, Rosie Duffield insisted that “only women have a cervix” while shrugging off criticism as a “witch hunt” and “tedious Communist pile-on”.

A flashpoint came when two staffers resigned from Duffield’s team, saying that her comments about trans people are “overtly transphobic”.

Duffield has repeatedly insisted she has “always” supported trans rights but has liked tweets by or sought to align herself with JK Rowling amid controversy around her comments on trans rights.

Last week, she put her “like on record” on a years-old tweet from the Harry Potter writer where she aligned herself with Maya Forstater, who at the time pursued legal action to have “gender-critical views” protected under Britain’s Equality Act.

 

More: Labour party, rosie duffield, transphobia, womxn

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