Thursday, 27 January 2011

Giles Coren: So why is it all right for women to be sexist about MEN?

The two Sky Sports presenters who were caught on tape making disparaging remarks about women earlier this week are a pair of daft old duffers, and no mistake. It is important for me to say that first, before I get to the business in hand.
Andy Gray and Richard Keys are a couple of dull, flabby, middle-aged football bores and are just the sort of doddering old clowns you would expect to relax off camera by swapping ancient prejudices and poking fun at women — in this case a female linesman — for not understanding the offside rule.
You shouldn’t pass unflattering remarks about women behind their backs because it is not a well brought-up thing to do, and they needed to be told. I would never do it myself. Not because I am a feminist, but because I am a gentleman. 
The real sexists? Gile Coren wonders how the Loose Women can get away with some of the things they say about men
The real sexists? Gile Coren wonders how the Loose Women can get away with some of the things they say about men
But while Gray has now been sacked, I don’t expect that will be the end of the matter. 
We will hear an endless shrieking to ‘kick sexism out of football’; a PE teacher will be fired for telling his goalkeeper to ‘stop crying like a girl’; and a hapless League One manager will be deported for describing a fight between players as ‘handbags at dawn’.
There will be the endless apologies, public soul-searching and self-flagellation. And as usual the rest of us men will be expected to atone as a sex for a couple of remarks by two fat, superannuated fools on the telly, and to grovel for forgiveness with every snivel and cringe of our waking lives.
Not that that’s anything new. To be a man in this country is constantly to have to apologise for oneself and to be ever so very careful about every sentence we speak or write which contains any reference at all to members of the opposite sex.

    While at the same time, and this is the shame of it, we ourselves are fair game for women. While sexism from men is the outstanding social crime of the modern world, women can say absolutely whatever they like about us.
    For make no mistake: sexism is alive and well in this country and applauded in all quarters — as long as it is practised by women. And they are allowed to say the most terrible, terrible things.
    Only last week, for example, Jo Brand, the newly crowned Best Female TV Comic at the British Comedy Awards, was on Have I Got News For You and replied to the question ‘What’s your favourite kind of man, Jo?’ by saying: ‘A dead one.’ Oh, how the audience fell about. And the other contestants, all male, chortled away too.
    I’m not saying it wasn’t funny. I’m just saying we live in a world where the thorough-going awfulness, uselessness and superfluity of the male sex is such a given, that a frontline television comic can get big laughs by saying she’d prefer it if we were all dead. 
    Giving men a bad name: Andy Gray, left, and Richard Keys caused outrage when they made disparaging remarks about a female linesman
    Giving men a bad name: Andy Gray, left, and Richard Keys caused outrage when they made disparaging remarks about a female linesman
    And I’m trying to imagine a world in which I am on that show and they say, ‘What kind of women do you like, Giles?’ and I reply: ‘Dead ones.’ I just don’t think it would get the same laughs, do you?
    Here’s another of Jo Brand’s (excellent) gags. ‘What’s the way to a man’s heart? Straight through the chest with a kitchen knife!’ Again, not unfunny. But predicated on the idea that killing men is hilarious. Whereas killing women, as we all know, is a very serious affair and not to be joked about.
    It’s not just Brand, it’s all women. ‘What do you call the useless flap of skin attached to a penis?’ they joke. ‘A man!’ they all reply, and clink their chardonnay glasses and chortle till dawn. How on earth did this get to be OK?
    I’ll tell you how. It is because pretty much from birth women are schooled by their mothers to deride men. They are sugar and spice, we are slugs and snails. 
    They are reflective and sensitive, while we run around kicking balls and shouting. And then as girls push towards puberty their mothers take them aside and tell them: ‘Boys are only after one thing!’
    If women ruled the world ­countries would be invaded because 'she’s always been jealous of my feet' and 'she looks down on me for going out to work'
    The great lie. All men want is sex. Not so. If anything, it is women who think only of having it off. Girls on average lose their ­virginity much younger than boys and have more sexual partners in youth. 
    As a teenager, I was ­terribly shy about sex and yet girls were trying to do it with me all the time. I used to run, literally run, from their bedrooms when they tried it on. And yet women are allowed endlessly to harangue us with our supposed lechery.
    And the prejudice festers. Harriet Harman says that men caused the banking crisis, and the ­harridan legions nod their heads. ‘If women ruled the world,’ they cry, ‘there would be no wars.’ 
    What nonsense. Women are far meaner, more brutal, aggressive, small-minded, jealous, petty and venal than any man. 
    If women ruled the world ­countries would be invaded because ‘she’s always been jealous of my feet’ and because ‘she looks down on me for going out to work’. 
    Millions would die, torture would increase. If women ruled the world there would be carnage.
    And what sort of an insult is it anyway to suggest that most women don’t understand the offside rule? It’s true, for a start. Most women don’t. And most of them declare it proudly. 
    Most of them use football as an example of one of their favourite gags, the one about how men never grow up, about how we’re all just children — most often manifested in the one where a mother-of-two says ‘I’ve got three children’, you raise an eyebrow, and she nods towards her husband. Hilarious.
    Giles Coren
    Nonsense: Women are far meaner, more brutal, small-minded, and petty than any man, says Giles Coren
    And nor are men, in this female narrative, merely puerile, aggressive and underdeveloped. They are hypochondriacs, too. 
    ‘He’s got a touch of man flu,’ say the ­womenfolk and titter. But what nonsense is that? It is women who make a big fuss about mild ­discomfort, not men. 
    I have never had so much as a cold in my life, nor claimed to. I even suspect sometimes that the whole palaver about the pain of childbirth is a conspiracy to ride roughshod over men. 
    My own mother, a ­consultant anaesthetist herself, has always claimed that giving birth was a breeze but that she pretended it had been painful to build bargaining chips with my father.
    You look at shows like Loose Women and you wonder how on earth they get away with the ­terrible things they say about men. I went on once and it was horrific. I wanted to die. 
    No male-hosted show could treat women the way those outsized harpies treat men.
    I don’t especially want to throw my hat in with Dominic Raab, the slightly bonkers Tory MP who has called for an end to legislative ­discrimination against men, but there is no question that women today have it all. 
    They retire younger and live longer to such an extent that minor inequalities in pay levels are obliterated when you consider whose money pays for those 25 years of retirement. And it just isn’t fair that they are allowed to be so vile about us.
    I suppose, in a way, British men are like white people were in Nineties South Africa or young Germans after the Second World War. 
    We are expected to go through a period of atonement for the sins of our fathers. To be treated worse than we merit because of crimes previously committed in our name: in this case the crime of feeding, protecting, loving and nurturing women in accordance with our biological imperative.
    They don’t want that any more. They want to be linesmen. And so we have to let them tell us endlessly how they wish we were all dead. 
    If that’s not off-side, I don’t know what is.

    Thursday, 30 September 2010

    The Radical East London History Tour

    I've been assigned the task of doing the publicity for our History Tour- it's to raise money for The East End Howler, a working class news sheet I do as part of Action East End.  It's the thing I do.  It's my thing that I do.  To make me feel useful.  So go!  In other news, soon I definitely won't be homeless- I've found a brilliant cheap room with lovely people in Manor House.  So I'm now frantically looking for work.  Anyway, enough of that  go here to find out about the History Tour, and if you're on facebook, go to the event and say WOW SOUNDS GREAT YES PLEASE.

    I won't actually be there.  A tree is being planted in Somerset for my Uncle Jim on that day, so I'll be there.  It's pretty much the most beautiful and Jimmy thing to come out of his death.

    Sunday, 5 September 2010

    Hackney Pride Speech

    My speech at Hackney Pride did pretty well.  I've had some requests for the transcript so I said I would post it here.  People were really lovely and I certainly wasn't expecting a standing ovation- so thanks to everyone who came, here's to hoping that some real community organising and action will come out of it.  I've also included the paragraph that I scribbled out on the bus down there because I was worried about length.  That paragraph is in purple.  Nick, reproduce, bastardise as much as you like, just remember to give me a lickle credit. 

    My name is Jasper Murphy and I have a vagina.  I'm involved in East London  Community Activism but today I'm here to speak “as a trans person” about transgender issues.  The term “transgender” is a broad term that refers to to a massive spectrum of people who in some way veer away from the gender written on their birth certificate.  So, I cannot, in any way whatsoever, be representative of transgendered people.  I can only talk about the world as I see it, from where I'm standing, as a transexual.

    I'm a lucky tranny.  First of all because I'm alive.  And secondly because I have a family who loves me.  That shouldn't be lucky, but at the moment, it is.  My own experience is quite unique so I thought I’d give you a quick history:  At 3 years old my first sentence was “I'm a boy”, at 7 years old when I was still convinced that this was true, my parents took me to a psychologist.  The psychologist said I probably have “Gender Dysphoria”.  My parents talked to my school and allowed me to cut my hair and wear a boy's uniform.  When I was 8   I was referred on to a specialist in London (on the NHS) who I saw until I was 18.  When I was 12 I legally changed my name which my granny paid for.  So I've been living as male since I was about 7 or 8.  I went through a full female puberty and eventually got testosterone when I was 21.  I had surgery when I was 22.  I'm 24 now so I've looked like this for about 2 years.

    It’s not my intention to simple ask for a complacent acceptance of trans people- for people to just stop insulting us and beating us up...  I want to talk about transphobia as an issue that affects all of us- and that we can all play a part in fighting.  We must, as a society, be better at gender.

    In the womb we all start off as female.  People who come out as little boys are changed during the pregnancy when testosterone is introduced.  The clitoris grows and becomes penis, and the labia becomes a scrotum.  Woman are so-called because they're meant to be like men, but with wombs- womb-man.  But in reality, men are women with big clitorises.  Bigclits.  Most people come out with either a vagina or a penis, but some people are somewhere inbetween- these people are 'intersex'.  As soon as we're born boys and girls are treated drasticallly differently- boys are given lego, girls are given dolls (and then people wonder about the lack of female engineers); girls are encouraged to care and talk about their feelings, whilst boys are told to be tough.  Every boy and girl, to some extent, has to grapple with the difference between who they are, and what a Real Man is.  What a Real Woman is.  Every body suffers from the invention of the Man and the Woman.  And I consider myself an extreme casualty of this- I don't really consider myself a Man- but I know, violently, that I'm not a woman.  I think that transpeople generally are an extreme casualty of this problem.

    Society is organised into men and women and I don't fit into either.  If I were to have to go to prison, I could either  be a man in an all female prison, or a man with a vagina in an all male-prison where privacy is not exactly a priority.  If I were to be arrested and strip-searched I've got a choice between a male officer or a female police officer.  But I'm not a man, that is not my sex, I am a transexual.  There is now a Gender Recognition Certificate so that I can be recognised as either a Man or a Woman by the state.  But I am not a Man or a Woman, I am a transexual.  I could be treated as a man, go to a male prison, be searched by a male officer, get married to a woman.  But I don't want to get married, I don't want to live in a society where people are sent to prison and strip searched by police.  I don't believe in leading a fight where we're asking to government to deal with us more efficiently, to oppress us better.  I don't want to be integrated better a rotten system, a want something different altogether.  I want to take part in creating a better world.

    Prejudice against transmen, that's me, is based on the sense that we're trying to muscle in on the privilege of being male that we don't deserve, we are inadequate, we don't have penises, and if we do, they're either weird and tiny or crap.  We're inadequate men, with big bums and crap willies.

    Prejudice against transwomen is based on the sense that they're degrading themselves, they're funny, a joke, why would you want to be a woman? They're trying to take a step down in society.

    So transphobia is rooted in sexism.  Some people believe that transwomen can't possibly know what it's like to be a woman because they haven't experienced sexism.  But the transphobia that transwoman get IS sexism, multiplied by a hundred!

    Some people say that trans men are just trying to escape sexism by turning into men.  Let me tell you, when you're a transexual, you do not escape sexism, you are pushed right into an enormous swamp of sexism.  When you experience both sides and more, you begin to see the sexism, you notice it when other people don't, when you play with gender you're witnessing the flow of power.

    Sexism, and more specifically this form of sexism which is a reaction to people’s gender deviance- not being a Proper Man, or a Proper Woman, is something that seems to be ignored.  It plays a huge part in homophobia- A gay boy, who is very masculine and handy with his fists is not likely to be bullied at school.  School kids don't usually see what their school mates find sexually attractive, they see how they behave.  Effeminate boys are bullied for being effeminate- and the words the kids use are gay, and batty boy, but they're being bullied because they're not acting like Real Men, this is sexism, but we call it homophobia.  And when you call it homophobia, what organisations are there helping the effeminate straight boy?  He's being told that it's okay to be gay, but no one's saying that it's okay to be a bit girly.  This is the same bullying that transexual people experience in the extreme, but it is in no way reserved for us.

    The experience of transgendered people is at the lethally sharp end of the wedge- and it is a lethally sharp edge, the Transgender Day of Remembrance website shows that in 2009 130 transgendered people were reported murdered- but this is a universal problem, rooted in sexism, it affects all os us and we can all take a part in fighting it.

     The invention of the Real Man and the Real Woman is enshrined in the economy.  For as long as someone has to work all week to get a wage, to survive, and for as long as we have babies that have to be looked after, someone else has to work in the home, and bring up babies for free.  At the moment, most of the time, the man works full time and the woman works for free in the home.  It's the unpaid labour that keeps the whole system running.  Take it away, and the whole thing collapses.  But that won't change by messing around with gender, or by swapping it around and turning the patriarchy into a matriarchy, or mixing it up, or by taking turns... or by paying another woman minimum wage to do the job instead.  For as long as this system keeps going, someone has to work in the home for free. And this is one of the most fundamental injustices the forms the foundation of our economy.  As much as transgendered people might highlight that these are not two unchanging natural roles, a liberal plea for tolerance is not the force that will bring it down.

    I want to come back to this idea that we need to, as a society, as a community, be better at gender.  The transition from one gender role to another is not just about surgery, in fact surgery plays a very small role in it.  For the most part, transition is social, because gender roles are social.  As I mentioned before, I lived for 12 years as male without any surgery or hormones whatsoever.  I now fit into the category of male because people call me ‘he’ and regard me as male.  The fact that transition is social seems to be lost on most people, when someone comes out as trans, people tend to wait until that person is manly, or womanly, enough to convince them.  The onus is put on the trans person to “act like a man” or “act like a woman” just to have their identity respected.  This often means, that for transmen, we are rewarded for acting like macho idiots, for only then will people respect our identity.  It should be everyone’s responsibility to respect someone’s identity, to play a part in the journey to becoming comfortable in their skin.

    What is it we want with our Pride Marches and our activism? 

    The freedom to walk down the street, dressed how you like, kissing who you like, in a couple of expensive areas of central and west London?  What about kissing in Clapton?  Stratford? East Ham?  What about being free in our working class communities where we actually live?  When will we be free to express our love, our gender, our bodies without fear of being beaten up by gangs of teenage boys?  And what about those teenage boys? Our neighbours?  When will that teenage boy feel free to suck off his mate, or wear a dress, without fear of complete rejection or without thinking that that would make him an entirely different person?

    It might be tempting, for those middle class homosexuals who have achieved their freedom, who are happily walking hand in hand down their little street in Hampstead, to pull the ladder up behind them and not be associated with transgenders, with us deviants, or with us working class queers in areas like Hackney, who still live surrounded by homophobia, transphobia, sexism.  I think we can see that temptation when we look at what London Pride has become.  And that’s why it’s important to have events like this, to keep our grassroots activism, and not accept anything less than absolute and complete freedom.


    Friday, 3 September 2010

    Nobbly Hoy

    I was watching an episode of Nobbly Hoy when there was a clatter outside so loud that I could no longer follow the dialogue of soft insults drenched in dialect, I do like Nobbly Hoy. Since my continued enjoyment of the episode was impossible without the eradication of the possibility of more clatter I paused the tape and opened my back door and looked out to see what might be there. I am speaking of the evening, nearing midnight really, on a rather muggy night in summer, more or less, it had been raining during the day. Behind my building in a small brick yard of old mottled city bricks and bind-weed. The gate leads to an alley lined with similar gates leading to similar yards backing similar buildings. The clattering noise had come from here. I looked out the back and saw two rusty tin can children clattering at each other in a clatter argument. They saw me and stopped for a moment, looked at me.

    Wednesday, 1 September 2010

    Things to Do Things To Do

    Last night, having finished my Swedish Detective novel, and having decided to Sort Things Out, and failed, my anxiety peaked.  As a result my hypersensitivity to light (the reason for the tint on my glasses) got out of control, so I spent the evening wearing two pairs of glasses, swaying in front of chatrooms, swugging whaskee and getting funnylegs from the drugs I'd taken.

    I think I was disappointed that in Firewall, one of the later Inspector Wallander novels, Kurt Wallander was functioning better than I am.  At the beginning of the series he drinks too much whisky, eats badly, and has a terrible temper.  But in Firewall he's just been diagnosed with diabetes and has started sorting himself out.  He takes a walk once a day and has been eating better.  He didn't drink on the job once.  It failed on pretty much every count to justify my desire to fall in a ditch blathering.

    Despite the fact that it's gone 3pm and the most productive thing I've achieved so far is having a shower and starting this blog entry, I feel better today.  My plan to Not Be Homeless has received a blow, an incredibly cheap room in a incredibly nice place has been leased to someone else, and I've had to rethink my plan.  Also, I'm due to speech this Saturday at Hackney Pride, I'm speaking after Diane Abbot and I'm speaking as a Trans Person.  I've no idea what I'm going to say and if I don't get something down tonight I'll probably be in a bit of trouble. A spot of bother.  I wish I wasn't so ill-informed.

    I love people who sing on youtube.

    Tuesday, 31 August 2010



    I'm currently obsessed with my shoulder hair, I have thick, clumpy hair on my shoulders and upper arms, like mittens belonging to the animal living on my back, holding on to me by my shoulders and arms, getting a piggyback (is it a pig?),  not letting go, thinking I'm It's Mummy.   I am It's Mummy, shit. When I'm alone I spend most of my time with my shirt off.  Whilst I was reading my Swedish detective mystery I couldn't help but be distracted by them, the pigmittens, imagining again and again sheering them off, and how nice that would feel.  But then, just before getting up to put the clippers on charge, I'd think 'where do I stop?' would I have to shave the entire backpig creature off?  What about stubble?
                  I regard the creature travelling on my back with a certain retarded masculine pride.  I know that the more I resemble a monkey the less likely I am to be beaten up by big boys with penises.   Unfortunately this is at odds with my nature.  My nature is to pick.  To pick just about everything.  And peel, mmmm, peeling is preferable.  I like even surfaces and consistency.  I think I once wrote a disgusting story about picking the scab off a horse. No wound has ever been left to heal on my body, not one, in twenty four years not one.  Scabs come off, off off the little plastic cover on new mobile phones- off; the spongy stuff on textured wallpaper- off.   At least I know that my pigmittens won't taste delicious, there's one less incentive (what animal is that eats its offspring?). Perhaps I'll leave them alone.  FOR NOW!

    Wednesday, 25 August 2010

    Death and Time

    It's the same bear in both pictures.  The second picture was taken a few weeks before Uncle Jim died.  That's him there, in the middle.  He gave me big bear.

    It's now a few weeks since he killed himself, he was only 36.  This feels crass now.