For those involved in the ongoing debate about what constitutes a ‘lived experience as a woman’ the Guardian today sported a very poignant cover.
The top left corner of the front page featured a heavily photoshopped picture of comedian Eddie Izzard sporting a long blonde wig and lipstick, informing the readership of his delight in having been ‘promoted to she’.
Further down the page, beneath the photo of Izzard, are smaller photographs of sixteen women.
These women are featured on the front cover because, on March 11th 2021, as she has done annually since 2015, Jess Phillips MP read out the names of the women killed by men in the UK in the last year. The House of Commons listened in silence as she read out the one hundred and eighteen names on the list. The women in the photos are sixteen of these women.
“How long would it take for her to read out all the men killed by men?“ asked one Twitter user, predictably.
“I’ll play,” retorted another, “What’s the list of men killed by men as a result of domestic violence or sexual intention. In the last year?”
The murderers & the murdered
Men and women are killed for different reasons. Men are more likely to be killed on the streets, for example, women in or around the home. The charity ‘Refuge’ reports that two women a week are killed by a current or former partner in England and Wales. But what percentage of murders are committed by women? Just seven percent, it seems.
Scrolling past articles with titles including, ‘Meet the hottest real-life female murderers’ and ‘8 sensational female murders from history‘, I eventually learn from the Office for National Statistics that between March 2018 and March 2020, 93% of suspects convicted of homicide were men. 27% of their victims were female. So while yes, more men are killed than women, it is almost always the men doing the killing.
Trans-identified people make up a small – if ever growing- population. Because of this is it not entirely surprising that, in contrast to the 118 women, last year in the UK no trans-identified people were murdered.
Between 2008 and 2017, it was reported by Channel4 fact check that nine trans-identified people were murdered in the UK. Two of these were later confirmed as suicides and one was found alive. In 2018 and 2019, Naomi Hersi and Amy Griffiths were murdered. In 2016 and in 2020 there were no trans murders in the UK.
Eight trans-identified people in the UK were murdered in the course of eleven years.
I’m going to say it: these victims were men, killed by men. And yes, that’s awful. It’s awful. Nobody should die like that. The tragedy does not change the fact that despite frequent claims that transwomen are at greater risk of being murdered than any other group, in the UK this is just not true.
“The limited data we’re working with suggests that in the UK at least, a trans person is less likely to be murdered than the average person.” reports Channel 4 fact check.
Prizes for womanning
The facts didn’t stop model and transactivist Munroe Bergdorf- who incidentally was today announced as one of Glamour magazine’s Women of the Year– from claiming, in a Huffington Post article entitled ‘Model Munroe Bergdorf Is Beating The Odds As A Transgender Woman Of Color’:
“The average life expectancy of a trans woman of color is 35 years, and that’s because of male violence largely. Statistically, I’ve got four years left on this earth.”
The article Bergdorf is referencing was concerned with trans-identified men in South America, many of whom are at added risk of violence from prostitution. Even so, the data is taken out of context, and is discussed further here.
Bergdorf is the privileged, South-of-England-born, university-educated, child of middle-class parents.
Incidentally, this isn’t the first time Glamour has given the award to a man – in 2015 they gave their Woman of the Year award to Caitlin Jenner.
“I never felt good on the male side and I wasn’t obviously on the female side. I was kind of stuck in the middle,” said Jenner of his pre-transition life.
There are few areas in which male entitlement is so apparent than in the comments and observations of men who believe themselves to be women ‘on the inside’.
Too often, we women are surprised that to so many trans-identified men, womanhood is all about lipstick, being catcalled, looking sexy… but why are we surprised? Of course it is! That’s the only part of womanhood that really interests them; that’s the only aspect they can ever even begin to grasp. They’ve never started their period on the tube, sitting with tightly crossed legs, praying they won’t leak blood all over the seat and their favourite pair of skinny jeans, or dribbled breast milk all over their favourite top. If we point this out, we are met with the cry ‘but not all women menstruate! But not all women birth and feed babies!‘ To which I would reply – just stop with the disingenuity. We all know what a woman is – we all came out of one.
Identify out of that
Surely we should be able to acknowledge that it’s not any inner sense of gender that we might or might not have that gets women killed?
It’s important that we are able to gather the data around men’s crimes against women and to do that we need to be able to acknowledge women’s biological vulnerability and we need to be able to define what a woman is. Saying ‘not all men’ is irrelevant. Of course ‘not all men’! That really isn’t the point.
As Joe Wells, whoever he may be, observes: “TV idea: #notallsnakes. Men who say ‘not all men’ are introduced to a variety of snakes. Not all of them are venomous.”
More and more frequently we see male crimes described as female crimes, because of the way the perpetrators identify. From possession of animal porn and images of child sexual abuse, to rape and battery, we read of male crimes in the press which are reported as female. Often it isn’t mentioned until the end of the article that the perpetrator is trans. Sometimes it isn’t mentioned at all.
This is not uncommon, and is recorded in the ‘These are Not Our Crimes‘ video. If you’ve never seen it, check it out. It’s shocking. As such a small number of women commit violent or ‘sex’ crimes, it only takes a very small number of extra crimes to tip the balance and affect the data gathered. Then those little voices calling ‘but women are violent too,’ grow a little stronger.
In relation to the third article on the cover of today’s Guardian, concerning the disappearance of Sarah Everard, Jess Phillips talks about how violence against women is sex based. Violent crime against women and girls? Can we identify out of it? Of course not.
“It’s got absolutely nothing to do with anything I can do.” she says, in the same week that Scotland has decided misogyny will not be a crime under its new Hate Crime bill.
“I can’t change the chromosomes in my body … I’m not stereotyping women as weak, I’m not even stereotyping men as all being perpetrators. I am saying that the message that needs to be sent, is that male violence is something that has to be tackled and challenged – and the justice system and society has to wake up to that, because at the moment we just simply don’t take it as seriously as we take other crimes.”
In November 2020 Rhonda Hotchkiss left the SNP writing, ‘I resign. I cannot be in a party where the abuse of women goes uncommented on, where campaigning around retaining the meaning of ‘woman’ will become a prosecutable offence & where our most vulnerable women are sacrificed on the altar of men’s feelings.”
The fantasy of womanhood versus the reality
“You’re brave taking this on,” mused Emma. “People aren’t going to want to hear it. Eddie Izzard is a national treasure. People just won’t get it.”
So back to witty, funny, quirky, rule-breaking Izzard- who has raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for charity with his marathon running- what does he have to do with any of this?
Well, obviously, nobody is suggesting he composed the editorial for the Guardian, designed the cover layout, or that he is in any way personally responsible for the murder of women.
Nobody is suggesting that, and to claim they are is to totally miss the point.
The Guardian front page does, however, perfectly contrast the fantasy of womanhood so revered by Izzard: based on long hair, lippy and tits, with the reality: that women are killed, raped, trafficked and abused because of their biology.
The online article appears to have been originally titled ‘I’ve had boob envy since my teens’ but was modified later in the day to the more sympathetic, ‘I’m just trying to create a space for myself’.
It wasn’t always this way of course. Eddie used to luxuriate in his role as a cross-dresser, viewing himself as a true challenger of gender stereotypes, albeit one already showing a degree of entitlement. In his memoir ‘Believe Me’ he writes about changing his clothing in the ladies’ toilets in Highbury Fields and how he was chased out by some 13-year-old girls who had been smoking in the loos.
““Hey, mate! Hey, mister! Why are you wearing makeup? Why are you dressed as a woman?” the girls had called, with what strikes me as reasonable and justifiable concern on finding a strangely dressed bloke zipping around their single-sex space.
When he turned round and shouted at them they ran away screaming. Tellingly, Izzard viewed himself as the victim in the exchange.
“I didn’t scream and run—in the end, they did.” Izzard ends the anecdote with misguided satisfaction.
Despite this delight in invading women’s spaces and yelling at teenage girls, Eddie only started claiming to be a woman himself in 2017.
Back in 2014, a few months before Phillips began reading out her list, Izzard came out with his now famous quote, ““They’re not women’s clothes. They’re my clothes. I bought them.”
But then his perspective changed.
In 2017, the reader of today’s Guardian is informed, Eddie was still unsure if he was entirely a woman. Hatternstone clarifies. “She (Eddie) had always talked about being in boy mode most of the time and girl mode part of the time, and she was still hoping to keep her options open. For her first half century, boy mode had dominated, and now it was time for girl mode to take centre stage.”
We’re talking about a bloke in his 50s here, right? Sometimes a boy, sometimes a girl… this is deluded madness! Good grief, what kind of mid-life crisis is this? What on earth is he playing at!
“I’ve been promoted to she, and it’s a great honour,” beams Izzard.
“Yeah, being a woman is great – until you walk home in the dark,” observed Lucy Bannerman on Twitter, “Or try to leave a violent partner. Does that count as “girl mode”?
“For Izzard it was never just about having a thing for dresses and high heels,” continues Hatternstone. A few paragraphs later he asks Izzard if he’d like boobs.
“Yeah! I’ve had boob envy since my teens. Just when teenage girls of my age were going ‘I want boobs’, I was thinking yeah me too,” replies Izzard, who has recently been sporting pert, orange-sized false breasts. “I’ve always had breasts envy.”
Izzard is aware of the controversy he has sparked with his claims to be a woman. “If you sat me down with some radical feminists I’m not sure whether we would sort everything out. I’d like to get to the place where we don’t have to have this fight…”
But it isn’t really a fight at all. Izzard is claiming to be something he is not, so he’s right. We won’t be able to ‘sort everything out’ until we stop encouraging, praising and fawning all over men who treat woman as a costume. We won’t be able to ‘sort everything out’ until men stop saying they’re women. It looks like a long road ahead.
Izzard wants to stand for Labour in the next election. One can only wonder if he plans on doing so on an all-woman shortlist.