Mumsnet and the fostering of transphobic radicalization
The investigatve reporter Katie J.M. Baker has written a very interesting analysis of the “gender critical” anti-trans movement in Britain and the role the site Mumsnet has played in this regard.
In the article, called “The Road to TERFdom”, Baker explains how.
Mumsnet is a British site for women. It presents itself as liberal, but these days the content is dominated by anti-trans rhetoric. It has become one of the main channels for TERF propaganda in Britain. The discussion repeats the traditionalist view of gender being nothing more than biological sex, echoing the transphobic arguments of the far right.
Baker, who is an American who have moved to London, writes:
At first, I was surprised to find in these threads the same paranoid and repeatedly debunked fears about trans women assaulting cis women in bathrooms and prisons that I associated primarily with right-wing U.S. senators.
But as I did more research, I learned that such fanaticism had been present in the U.K. for some time. In 2017, when two members of parliament hosted a chat on Mumsnet to discuss the issue of women returning to the workplace, commenters were more interested in discussing whether the politicians believed trans women were women.
The politicians tried in vain to focus on questions related to employment rights, but the posters argued that the issue couldn’t be discussed unless they could first agree upon a definition of “woman.”
Katie J.M. Baker
Baker writes that the forum reminds her of her reporting on the ways men are radicalized by the toxic online “manosphere,” “where pick-up artists (PUAs) and men’s rights activists (MRAs) recruit followers by exploiting real fears (such as economic anxiety) and blaming marginalized outgroups (women, people of color, Jews) for societal failures.”
As people get drawn into these communities, they become obsessed with a misguided sense of victimization and start to focus single-mindedly on their newfound worldview, Baker argues.
Baker suggest that some of them are drawn to the transphobia of Mumsnet, after giving birth, feeling the isolation following from a lack of support of mothers in the UK.
This is something we often see in the radicalization of privileged white middle and upper class people who find their status threatened. Instead of attacking the system that creates their suffering, they find scape goats (independent women in the case of male misogynists and incels, Jews and people of color among fascists and white supremacists, and trans women in the world of TERFs).
I believe this is a very important observation: Bigotry of this kind is driven by a deep fear of being left out of the good things in life. They have been raised to believe in a social contract where every generation is getting a better life than the previous, and now this no longer seems to be the case.
Extremist radicalization is not predominantly found among the poor or those who have already have lost their social status. Instead it is found among those who now see that the status they grew up to expect is under threat.
They may be right about their way of life being under threat, but the reasons for this possible loss are complex and often requires them to question their own world views and place in society. It is easier to blame it all on some outsiders, preferably a marginalized group that they have already been raised to despise. Trump appeals to their racism, the TERFs to their transphobia.
If Mumsnet’s women’s rights forum is popular because it responds to the experience of being stuck at home without support or community, it’s done so in a way that leaves Mumsnetters in a political cul-de-sac.
The community isolates its members in a bubble of transphobic thought that leaves them free to develop their bigotries without needing to encounter the human beings affected by them.
It also inculcates members with a tragically narrow idea of feminism, one that rejects other people fighting for gender liberation.
Top photo from the article: Carrie Longton and Justine Roberts co-founded parenting site Mumsnet, which includes a message board that’s come under fire for transphobia (Photo by Jenny Western/Corbis via Getty Images).
Katie J.M. Baker is a national reporter for BuzzFeed News who has covered campus sexual assault for years. She has also worked and written for a variety of other publications, including Newsweek, Dissent, Al Jazeera, Jezebel, the New York Times and the San Francisco Chronicle.
Originally published at https://trans-express.lgbt.