Suzanne Moore, Julie Burchill, & Censorship

Attacks on British journalists Suzanne Moore and Julie Burchill have made me feel it necessary to add my voice to those who decry censorship and intimidation. I have just posted this comment on Moore’s most recent article in the UK Guardian.

When the brave and passionate Suzanne Moore wrote in the Guardian that women are expected to look like Brazilian transsexuals, was there a feminist alive who didn’t understand she was referring to the pressure women feel to achieve a level of perfection not found in nature but at the end of a surgeon’s knife? When Julie Burchill, was censored by the Observer for defending her friend and raising hackles in the process, was there a feminist who felt herself served by the suppression of a woman’s voice?

I never gave much thought to censorship until – yeah – it happened to me. 

In November I published a book, Sex Changes: A Memoir of Marriage, Gender, and Moving On (St. Martin’s Press), which was extracted in the Guardian, recounting my own and my children’s experiences with a husband and father who decided in midlife he didn’t wish to be either.

When a bookstore near my home attempted to hold a publication party, a mob of my ex’s friends several dozen strong attacked the event and succeeded in getting the bookstore shut down. They said they hadn’t read my book; my ex objected to it, that was enough. Belligerent, itching for violence, they refused dialogue, going so far as to heckle and physically intimidate a friend who identified herself as a lesbian. Does this sound like political activism? Or a fascist mob? They vowed that anywhere I appeared they would set their network in motion to stop me. Presumably Moore and Burchill have been keeping them busy.

A few weeks later, I published an essay about my decision to remain living in a small town after the demise of my marriage on a parenting website. Within moments of its appearance, my ex sent out what one recipient termed a “call to arms” instructing supporters to deluge the site with hate mail and force them to remove the essay. Two days later, the website did so, with a statement sickeningly, scarily echoed by the Observer’s John Mulholland writing that his paper “prides itself on ventilating difficult debates and airing challenging views.” The little American website can boast something in common with a prominent British newspaper: both claimed to be forums for open discussion while ending their readers’ ability to believe it.

My ex ‘s mob gloms instantly onto anything connected to my book, conducting attacks very like those against Moore and Burchill. The explicit aim is intimidation, fear. Suppression: of a personal memoir or political discourse.

Where is the voice of feminism in this? According to Madeleine Albright, “There is a special place is hell for women who don’t help other women.” Will feminists call that place home?



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17 responses to “Suzanne Moore, Julie Burchill, & Censorship

  1. Petre

    Like others here, I came across your page through Gendertrender, and have now bookmarked it. I am a gay man, and am angry and ashamed that such a big part of the lesbian&gay (or now, LGBTQI… ) movement have become enablers for the misbegotten and misogynistic transgender cult. I have just ordered your book, and look forward to reading it.

    • Thank you so much for your support. Messages like yours give me hope that we may all come to agree on at least this one thing: that bullying, intimidation, suppression, the shutting down and out of anyone who tries to speak from his or her own experience, serves none of our interests. All best wishes!

  2. Pingback: Silenced Out Of Existence « loveangellove

    • Your statement that no other rights movement has been capable of asserting rights over others continues to haunt me. I would add that most – all? – movements would not wish to. For me the strangest and most mind-boggling facet of my book’s odyssey has been the discovery that there are some trans activists for whom the values and methods of the reactionary right wing are a comfortable fit: Intimidate and silence anyway who attempts to speak for him- or herself, if that person’s words stray outside strict party lines.

  3. I’m a feminist and have been appalled at the bullying by transactivists that has gone on with various feminist bloggers. I read about your book on one of those sites and based on the censorship issue, I decided to purchase and read your book. I’ve found it to be a very sensitive treatment of a painful set of circumstances. Seriously, I don’t understand how anyone could object to it. You have my support.

  4. Pingback: For “If You Care About Real Females”* Consumption « AROOO

  5. Eve

    Silencing and erasing women and their experiences; nothing new under the sun, I see!

    In the future I hope your engagements will be made at businesses that allow women to tell their story despite whomever may disagree. I am a feminist and I stand for women being heard. I will never back down from bullies or anybody who wants us women to keep quiet. I don’t care which gender or sex is doing it, I only know that attempting to silence us will make us speak loudest and fight hardest. We’ve been fighting for decades to be heard, so this is nothing new for feminists.

    By the way, your husband sounds like a selfish prick. Sorry but from what I have been reading, it’s very much all about him. Glad you are away from that.

    Inciting people via online methods to go and harass and intimidate you in your private and work life is very much against the law. Please look into that and please PLEASE do not stay quiet. Your story needs to be heard.

  6. Jean Vignes

    Ms. Benvenuto, the censorship that you and I — and many, many other women — have been experiencing at the hands of this mob has both appalled me and galvanized me. I know that I an not alone in wishing you well and longing for the days when I could say “sisterhood is powerful” and literally everyone knew that I was speaking of the special bond between real women raised from birth as girls, not some artificially-constructed and specious idea or concept of “women” generated in the minds of mentally disturbed men in women’s clothing. I can hardly believe that, 222 years after the ratification of the U.S. Bill of Rights, women are having to tell the editors, publishers and sellers of books and newspapers that no one should be censored, threatened or abused for disagreeing with your husband and his friends.

  7. I started questioning whether some transgender activism is at odds with feminism when I heard Chaz Bono on NPR taking about how much “sharper” she is now that she’s a man and how she can longer abide the chatter of her aunts, because she’s a man now. Then I read about the wife murderer who wants sex re-assignment surgery in prison on Jezebel and commenters on a feminist website were pondering whether his wife brought on her own murder by being unsupportive of his transgenderism. Then I watched Ayelet Waldman on twitter cave in to people who disagreed with her stance that a male lesbian should cover his penis if he is around girls in a women’s locker room.

    I love your book and the people who bullied you for daring to tell your side of the story should be ashamed of themselves.

  8. Your ex sounds like an arsehole, frankly; a condition that synthetic steroids and a new wardrobe are unlikely to improve upon. You wouldn’t be the first person to rationalize away red-flag behaviour in the pursuit of saving a relationship you’re committed to, and you won’t be the last I’m sure; but you’re clearly well shot of him. I hope your kids aren’t too messed-up by the experience – the way he treated you was bad enough; his lack of regard for them is unforgivable.

    I also happened upon this blog via Gendertrender and I’m glad there are such places where people can express unpopular opinions and tell their stories without being censored or sensationalized.

    Take care,


  9. Christine–Those of us who oppose this have been driven out of the mainstream feminist publications and silenced in the gbt community. You are not alone and we are making headway against this. As Eva has said the public doesn’t know much now but they will soon see these gender activists for what they really are–fascists.

  10. SheilaG

    Christine, you have an absolute right to freedom of speech, and the right to write a book about your life.
    You ex-husband and his gang have no right to intimidate bookstores or harass you. As a feminist of long standing, I stand by you in this struggle. Male supremacy and entitlement in all its manifestations has got to stop.
    I am so sorry you lost the family you thought you had, and that you are going through this. I ordered your book last week, and intend to promote it through my network.

  11. Eva

    I’ve been following your story on Gendertrender and at other websites. You have my full support and I plan to buy your book very soon.

    There’s not been much public debate on this issue and average Americans have not been allowed to see prominent trans activists at work. I believe they’ve made so much legal progress behind the scenes because medicalizing gender nonconformity is so lucrative to the medical industry. Things are changing, though, and trans activists are demanding more visisbility. I say let them have it, and let people see what is really at stake here. We’re just getting started.

  12. doublevez

    Christine, I don’t know what feminists you’ve been reading, but among the ones I know, you have our absolute support and admiration, and we have not been silent about that.

    I linked through from

  13. Male entitlement, privilege, and the (often) resulting verbal abuse, and sometimes physical threats of harm, if a female so much as dares to challenge the male’s positions, clearly does not disappear with sex reassignment surgery or the ingestion of female hormones. Considering that “gender dysphoria” is a psychological affliction, it should come as no surprise that a surgical – as opposed to a psychiatric – intervention has not solved the psychological distress.

    I am a female, a lesbian, and a feminist. I salute your courage, your honesty, and your unflinching integrity. Soldier on, sister.

  14. Reblogged this on GenderTrender and commented:
    Author Christine Benvenuto speaks out on censorship and intimidation of feminists who express opinions about men who “change sex”. She writes: “Where is the voice of feminism in this? According to Madeleine Albright, “There is a special place is hell for women who don’t help other women.” Will feminists call that place home?”

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