It was a great weekend. We played a fantastic punk alldayer in Nottingham on Saturday evening alongside some amazing, inspiring acts, and met some really cool new people as well as old friends.
Relaxed in the glow of an evening sun filtered through train windows during the journey home, a couple of us decided to log into the website to make a small update. We initially weren’t too surprised to see a spike in visits over the last couple of days, but became curious and confused when we saw that the vast majority of the hits were for the lyrics to our song “Freedom of Speech” (which we happened not to play on Saturday).
It turned out that this page had been discovered by a TERF (“trans-exclusive radical feminist”). She found our lyrics “upsetting”, so wandered over to Reddit to share them with a bunch of her TERF friends.
The uninitiated can read about TERFs here, here, and here. Warning: it’s not pretty. The subreddit in question is “Gender Critical Feminism”. We’re not gonna bother linking it for obvious reasons. Google it if you must, but trust us when we say that you’re not missing much.
The resulting brief burst of outrage was somewhat predictable. Ruth was misgendered, trans experience was put down to “magical thinking” comparable to George W Bush’s saviour complex, and there is a sarcastic comment about our use of swearwords (yes, we know that swearing is no longer anything like as cool as when MC5 instructed listeners to “kick out the jams, motherfuckers” back in 1969, but you can’t have everything).
The strongest message that comes out of their strange little conversation though is that we’re a misogynist band. That’s right folks, Not Right hate women!
So what’s misogynistic about the song? Well, we do use the word “cunt”. That one’s up for debate in some feminist circles, although we use the word in such the same way as we might use “dick” or “arsehole”. Body bits, yeah?
Beyond that – is it because we say “we’ll hit right back”? Because we talk about “hateful slurs”, and then there is some rude condemnation of said slurs? This is exactly the kind of language that’s used in feminist discourse around protests and events such as Reclaim The Night (which, for the record, we fully support) and it’s not meant to be literal. We’re not planning to actually “hit” anyone – we wish to instead strike metaphorically against their discourse.
This all seems painfully obvious, but is genuinely beyond TERF logic. The same kind of disregard for metaphor and irony can be found in recent TERF criticisms of Against Me! that accuse Laura Jane Grace of misogyny for using lines such as “your tells are so obvious/shoulders too broad for a girl” and having an image of a breast as a slab of meat on the cover of Transgender Dysphoria Blues. This kind of accusation misses the point so spectacularly that you have to wonder if the ignorance is intentional. How can anyone read those lyrics, look at that album cover, and not see a blatant condemnation of binary gender expectations and the sexist objectification of women, trans and cis alike?
Might it instead be that Freedom of Speech is “misogynistic” because we state that trans bodies, trans lives and trans genders shouldn’t be up for debate? If so, there’s no way we can win a rational debate: if you can’t recognise the experiences of others as real and valid, then you’re inevitably going to find yourself at odds with them. You end up with the same kind of entrenched ideological warfare that takes place between LGBT people and homophobic religious fundamentalists.
At the end of the day, it’s ridiculous that women who call themselves feminist are wasting so much energy getting angry about the existence of trans people. There is actual, real suffering happening in this world. Freedom of Speech addresses the suffering that arises from the dehumanising logic of transphobic (and homophobic) hate speech: violent murder, horrific medical malpractice and frequent suicide attempts.
We’re quite prepared to accept that we point all of this out in a blunt, stroppy manner. But “the grossest possible misogyny”? Fuck off.
In other news, some guys who had turned up to the weekend’s gig decided to engage in some “friendly banter” as we got ready to play. As usual, Ruth’s arms were covered in transphobic slurs, and Kirsty had written “culture slut” on her chest. “We’ll see about that,” muttered one member of the fun little group at the front.
We plugged in and blasted out Never Back Down, a wave of heavily distorted noise and furious feminist condemnation. The dickhead parade couldn’t take it. They were out of the pub door before the song was over.
We were left to enjoy the rest of the night free of their presence. The end.