The Guardian Censored Judith Butler’s Comments About TERFs In A New Interview

Facing a storm of online pressure, the publication removed a paragraph in which Butler fiercely criticised TERFs.

Judith Butler censored by The Guardian

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It’s been 31 years since the release of Gender Trouble by Judith Butler, a landmark philosophical work about feminism, sex and identity.

From its very first line — “for the most part, feminist theory has assumed that there is some existing identity, understood through the category of women, who not only initiates feminist interests and goals within discourse, but constitutes the subject for whom political representation is pursued” — Gender Trouble dismantles essentialist notions of gender.

There is nothing fixed, stable or ahistorical about “femininity” or “masculinity” or the genders that lie between, Butler writes. Instead, gender can be better thought of as a kind of performance; something that we do, rather than something that we are.

Of course, in the years since its publication, such issues have only come to the forefront of both popular and philosophical debate. Now more than ever, people are falling into one of two camps: those essentialists who think that there is a criteria to be satisfied if one is to “be” a woman or a man, and those like Butler who understand that we are free to move between these and other labels as we wish.

The former camp is made up of TERFs, AKA trans-exclusionary radical feminists, those who see trans and non-binary people as somehow invading a space carved out for women. These TERFs do not accept that gender is fluid, and instead fall back on an outdated notion of scientific naturalism, where gender is what human biology tells us it is.

Of course, such an argument is based on a flawed understanding of the separation between sex and gender. But that doesn’t stop TERFs from loudly proclaiming that they are the only ones who understand what the human body tells us.

Now, Judith Butler has directly taken on these TERFs, giving an excellent interview to The Guardian in which they spell out the ways that the “anti-gender ideology is one of the dominant strains of fascism in our times.”

“The TERFs will not be part of the contemporary struggle against fascism, one that requires a coalition guided by struggles against racism, nationalism, xenophobia and carceral violence, one that is mindful of the high rates of feminicide throughout the world, which include high rates of attacks on trans and genderqueer people.

“The anti-gender movement circulates a spectre of ‘gender’ as a force of destruction, but they never actually read any works in gender studies.”

These are careful, well-formed points, carried with force. But try telling that to The Guardian. In the hours after the interview went up, facing mounting pressure from TERFs, The Guardian removed the section equating gender-critical ideologues with fascists, saying only that the changes “reflect developments which occurred after the interview took place”

The author of the piece, Jules Gleeson, later took to their Twitter, where they revealed that the censoring is, as far as they can tell, “unprecedented.”

This flies directly in the face of the TERF rhetoric that they are the ones being silenced. Here’s a point of view being openly suppressed — and TERFs, supposed free speech warriors, are silent.