Observer row as Julie Burchill goes to war with transsexuals

Government minister gets involved as Burchill goes OTT in defence of Suzanne Moore

BY Jonathan Harwood LAST UPDATED AT 15:21 ON Mon 14 Jan 2013

NEWSPAPER columnist Julie Burchill has never been afraid of controversy but she now finds herself at the centre of a media firestorm, with calls coming in for her head and that of the editor of The Observer, John Mulholland.

The cause of the trouble was an incendiary column in yesterday's paper about transsexuals whom she described as "a bunch of dicks in chicks' clothing", "screaming mimis" and "bed-wetters in bad wigs".

Government minister Lynne Featherstone has described Burchill's column as a piece of "bigoted vomit" and backed calls for Mulholland to lose his job.

The online version of the article, headlined 'Transsexuals should cut it out', has so far attracted more than 2,500 comments, prompting readers' editor Stephen Pritchard and the Observer's parent company, Guardian News & Media, to promise an inquiry.

Burchill wrote the piece in support of her old friend and fellow polemicist Suzanne Moore.

Last week Moore wrote a general piece on female anger for the New Statesman which claimed women were nowadays expected to have the body of "a Brazilian transsexual". The comment led to anger against Moore, who announced she was leaving Twitter as a result of the abuse she had received.

That prompted Burchill to respond, and she did so in typically forthright fashion. She even equated the attacks on Moore to "the Black and White Minstrels telling Usain Bolt how to run".

Her piece provoked an even more furious reaction that Moore's. Several activists denounced it as "hate speech" and, in a blog for the Guardian, transsexuals' rights activist Roz Kaveney accused Burchill of bullying and said that the article "filled the bingo card of transphobic insults".

Kaveney added: "She has parted company with common decency,"

In The Independent, Burchill was accused of "deliberate bigotry" by Louise McCudden while feminist Jane Fae said Burchill was responsible for a "piece that plumbs the depths in two respects. For its argument - which feels as though the last thirty years never happened - and for the vileness of language used, which seems to go out of its way... to insult and hurt."

The row shines a light on the world of liberal politics, argues Tim Stanley of the Daily Telegraph. "It's a classic example of the identity politics revolution consuming itself. Liberalism has created different political classes of minorities who compete with each other for title of the most oppressed – and this invariably creates new forms of fascism as one group asserts itself over the other."

But it was the intervention of a government minister - Lynne Featherstone - that worried many. David Hughes, writing for the Telegraph, said: "The casual ease with which a government minister can call for a journalist to be sacked for writing something the minister deems unacceptable stands as a handy reminder of the dangers of the state having a statutory role in press regulation." · 

Disqus - noscript

JB cuts through the crap and was defending a friend. She was not attacking trans-sexuals - just some stupid ones. Shame on The Guardian for being intimidated by the crazy-vociferous venom-laced faux-indignant mad-muttering gender-politics ghetto.

Could you possibly fit more buzzwords in that sentance, Ken?

Perhaps you didn't actually read the article, but she quite clearly attacked transsexual people -- all of them -- in response to the actions of a few. When you repeatedly use slurs like "shemale" you have crossed a line, and that is just the tip of the iceberg. It would be like attacking all black people because the NAACP said something about your friend. (But the people talking to her friend weren't even that organized...)

I thought Featherhead was minister for overseas development, ie foreign aid kickbacks?

Oh grow up - why do people read Julie Birchill? They like to be shocked, and have a guilty chuckle. Ofcourse she's offensive. She gets paid to be offensive. And witty, and perceptive, iconoclastic ... I'm sure Brazilian Transvestites can speak in their own defence, anyway - if they are at all concerned..

She absolutely did not attack all trans people.

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.