Yesterday (13th November 2017) James O’Brien of LBC took a call from a listener expressing her thoughts on gender identity and whether outlets like Topshop should allow anyone who identifies as a woman or girl into their female changing rooms. We were outraged to hear the bullying and misogynistic way the call was handled. James would not let her speak, shut her down, mocked her, and implied she was a right-wing nutter for not agreeing that sex is in the ‘soul’. Here is a LINK to the full transcript of the conversation so you can judge for yourselves.
So shocked were we by this interview, we got in touch with Kellie and asked for her account of what happened. She told us that on Monday morning she was excited to be put through to James O’Brien on his LBC radio show. Kellie said she was an avid listener of LBC, particularly James’s show, and had cried with the Grenfell tower victims as he eloquently talked them through their pain, cheered when he’d revealed the bigot or the racist, and found that much of her politics matched James’s outlook on life. Kellie said she particularly likes the respectful debate encouraged on LBC, even when she doesn’t agree with the particular views of the DJ. Earlier in the show James had waxed lyrical about the trans boy he knows, and he said he genuinely wanted to try and understand the views of people on the other side of the gender neutral spaces debate, as well to understand the concerns some women and parents have about trans issues.
To ours and Kellie’s dismay, from the beginning it was quite clear he was not going to let her speak, and he interrupted Kellie an astonishing 17 times in a five minute call. Kellie was allowed about 4 seconds between each interruption. Kellie tried to ask ‘what does “live as a girl mean?” His answer revealed much more than he realises:
“Well in the context of the sort of stories we’re discussing it means that there are children who want to fit or feel happier doing all the things that girls do. It’s really about challenging what is a mere tradition like pink and blue and toys and games and experiences that we see are essentially masculine like cowboys and Indians and soldiers, and essentially feminine like playing dolls and hospitals and the idea is that every child should be free to do both and at the moment if you feel passionately that you want to do all the things that are traditionally associated with the other gender life is really tough and this mission, seems to me, is designed to make life easier for those children and I can’t understand how we’ve got to a place where people get cross about making life easier for those children…..”
So, James thinks not fitting into traditional gender roles and liking stereotypical gendered toys and games means one is of the opposite sex and that this is felt ‘deep down inside’. He seems to be confused about the difference between ‘gender non-conformity’ and ‘transgender’.
This astonishing masterclass in mansplaining continued in this vein, with Kellie trying and failing to get a word in edgeways. Things took a turn for the worse when James engaged the tired ‘Not All Men’ trope.
“What about changing rooms?” he began. “You think a man pretending to be a woman might invade their changing room in the hope of catching them in their pants?” (subtext: Let’s frame this woman as a pearl clutching paranoid loser, and ignore all the evidence that this is already happening)
“Would you feel comfortable getting changed in a room next to me?” (subtext: do you think I’m a rapist?)
“What do you think I’m going to do?” (subtext: we’re going to ignore the data on male violence and make this woman feel it’s impossible to assert her own boundaries, and make her look foolish… )
“With respect (we think that was in short supply, James!) if I was as paranoid about this as you are I would try and hold the curtain shut whilst trying to undress with one hand. Explain to me the rational fear you have of what I might do if I was changing on the other side of a door or curtain from you….”
On and on and on it went until:
“Now talk me through how you’d tell which ones were dodgy?” (James had no idea but he’d basically made Kellie’s point for her… )
“Men can assault you anywhere….. “ (thanks for the reminder James, now us paranoid women of #metoo can be reminded that men can get us anywhere and why should a changing room be the exception).
This misogynistic exercise in self-congratulation concluded with James dismissing Kellie as a religious, right wing bigot and terminating the call. We encourage you to read the full transcript here. Kellie felt so upset that her views had been so outrageously distorted, and her right to reply so curtailed that she wrote to James directly. She’s kindly shared the email with us:
After speaking with you yesterday I can’t sleep Mr O’Brien and I wanted to tell you why. “Why wouldn’t you want to change next to me?” you angrily ask me, “why wouldn’t you want to be in a changing room next to me?” In a sea of #metoo and unprecedented numbers of women coming forward to say they’ve been sexually harassed and assaulted, on public transport, at nightclubs, walking home from school, and even at work you ask me “why wouldn’t you want to change next to me?”
Most women feel vulnerable in a state of undress. Most of us have been gawped at since we first got breasts, most of us are only too aware of the male gaze, we know how men view us, we’ve heard the conversations, we’ve seen the media messages time and time and time again. Women are for looking at, not listening to. A point you proved only too well, yesterday.
I don’t know you James, I don’t know your intentions but insisting that I’m some sort of paranoid religious nut for not wanting a man I don’t know changing next to me is shameful, you tried to shame me. In fact you didn’t try, you succeeded in making me feel deeply embarrassed and ashamed that I couldn’t just say I’d feel uncomfortable and you would think that was enough.
Perhaps I should have told you about being groped at 7, or being called “tits ten” from the age of ten because I had breasts. Perhaps I should have told you about the boys trying to look under the door at a party when I was in the toilet when I was eleven, or the constant pressure as a teen to go further than I wanted with a boy. Perhaps I should have told you about my friend’s dad telling me he, “likes those puppies especially the one with the pink nose” or of the many times I’ve been surrounded by drunk men wanting my attention. Or the leering, the shouting out by men telling me what they think of me even when I’m with my kids.
But, ask me again “why wouldn’t you want me in a changing room next to you?”
I am a left wing feminist, married to the love of my life and we have four children. You framed me as a right wing religious nut and congratulated yourself for it afterwards. Hectoring and goading. “Why wouldn’t you want me in a changing room next to you?”
The trans stuff I understand you don’t get, you claim to read Janice Turner but then think a child of four can genuinely know (from tradition and stereotypes, external things) that their inner soul is male or female, born into the wrong body.
I disagree. I don’t believe in souls or inner feelings, but then I’m not a religious woman. I think you’re born into a body and it’s better long term to live within that than pump kids full of rebranded chemo drugs at eleven. Considering there’s no long term data to back it up, puberty blockers are extremely risky, rendering kids infertile before they’ve even had sex, followed by surgeries at 18 that some regret.
But then I understand that there’s no “living as a woman”. No male who chooses that ever really lives as one, they just live as they think a woman lives.
I think all people deserve dignity and respect. But that doesn’t mean women have to sacrifice our private space to accommodate those (even genuinely dysphoric) men who wish to encroach upon it. You are basically telling women that we’re just an idea. And you mentioned Fox, who after painfully telling you they were a man has now decided they’re neither man or woman, so that “life long knowing” isn’t quite so fixed is it? But I’m arrogant, right?
You made me feel shame. In a sea of #metoo you tried to make a woman look like a paranoid freak for feeling uncomfortable in a state of undress with a man next to her divided by a flimsy not fit for purpose curtain. Why wouldn’t I want you next to me James? Because I don’t think you respect women’s boundaries.
Fairplay for Women have now complained directly to James O’Brien at LBC. This is our letter to him expressing our anger and concern about the way he silenced and bullied Kellie instead of allowing her the space to air her views. If you agree, like us, that he was wrong to dismiss women’s concerns then please let him and LBC know how you feel. Tweet James and LBC today or email them.
FairPlay for Women want to complain in the strongest terms about the bullying and misogynistic way you handled a call from Kelly in Wiltshire regarding transgender and changing rooms yesterday.
You would not let her speak, shut her down, mocked her, and implied she’s a right-wing nutter for not agreeing that sex is a ‘soul’. You do know that some ‘innate’ sense of ‘womanhood’ is the idea that denied women the vote, the nonsense idea that ‘femininity’ is an actual REAL thing? Gender – aka sex role stereotypes and erroneous ideas about women – were what denied women protection from rape in marriage, getting credit, a mortgage, a divorce, having any protection from domestic violence etc. Being a woman is NOT the performance of stereotypes, it’s not a costume like a black and white minstrel, it’s a biological reality with material consequences, a lifetime of being a second-class citizen by dint of our SEX.
You repeatedly conflate the terms sex and gender as if they are the same thing, they are not. Sex is just biology, male or female or man or woman. A woman is an adult human female. Gender is a violently coercive hierarchy that is imposed on women in order to oppress them and control their biology and exploit their reproductive, domestic and sexual labour. Without gender there could be no patriarchy, no sexism, no subjugation of women. Without gender there would be no violence against women. GENDER is the means by which men justify what they do to women – patriarchy is the ball, gender is the chain. Masculine and feminine are NOT innate, they are socially constructed. It’s not a spectrum, it’s a hierarchy. You benefit from it James, like it or not. All men do.
Under the Equality Act 2010 women have legal SEX based protections, including lawful exclusions such as changing rooms and rape and domestic violence shelters. These are enshrined in LAW. Self-declaration of gender ID is not law, only a transwoman with a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) is legally classified as member of the female sex and has the automatic right to use single-sex facilities for females, and even then, there are lawful exceptions. A transgender male who says he identifies as a woman and is in the process of transitioning must not be discriminated against for being transgender, and rightfully so, but this does not mean they must be regarded as a member of the female sex. Sometimes sex segregation is necessary and it is lawful. The protected characteristic of ‘Gender Reassignment’ does not automatically over rule the protected characteristic of ‘sex’.
In the UK where women have sex segregation, only 10% of sex crime (98% of which is committed by men, 90% of the victims of which are female) is opportunistic. In India, where there is no sex segregation, 90% of sex crime is opportunistic. The women’s liberation movement campaigned for single sex spaces so that women could have a PUBLIC LIFE. Read up on the history of the first women’s public toilet in London. Women were beaten in the streets for wanting that because women’s place was in the home. We are entitled to go about our lawful business without harassment from men, we are allowed to SAY NO TO PENIS in our private spaces. Traumatized women, raped women, religious women, lesbian women, shy women, teenage girls are ALLOWED BOUNDARIES. It’s not about you in the cubicle next to us, it’s about MEN. If you are denying that men are committing epidemic levels of violence and depravity against women and girls, all over the world, you are deluded. You might not be a violent man James, but you still benefit from women’s fear of all the men that are – sex attackers don’t wear a badge! Your lack of awareness of this fact has a name, feminists call it ‘male privilege’.
We were touched and moved by your shows of late on sex abuse in schools and the church. You spoke of Ampleforth. We’re shocked that you cannot see the EXTRAORDINARY lengths men will go to gain access to women and children. Domestic abusers will go to UNBELIEVABLE lengths to get access to their victims. In the USA, these men are ALREADY using loopholes in gender ID laws to gain access to women’s safe spaces. The chain store Target in the USA, which has implemented a gender-neutral changing / bathroom policy have had a MASSIVE increase in sexual assaults, peeping, flashing, illicit filming, voyeurism in what were once single sex spaces.
You need to do some research. 90% of transwomen don’t have dysphoria, and less than 20% ever have surgery or take hormones (or when they talk about surgery they mean boobs, face and Adam’s apple cosmetic surgery, they nearly ALL keep their penis). You need to research autogynephilia and actually do some homework into the increase in crimes against women by men claiming to be transgender in countries where Gender ID has been enshrined in law. Long term studies show that transwomen continue to show a male pattern of criminality including violent crimes at the same rate as other men. By contrast, almost all transmen have dysphoria and they are usually autistic, lesbian or sexually traumatised, or all three. Why is it so difficult for you to join the dots and see the rampant misogyny girls are suffering and wanting to jump out of the “feminine box”?
The solution to the prison of gender (remember your chat with Robert Webb?) is to get rid of the gender boxes, not create more or swap boxes! Queering gender liberates NO ONE. Feminists seek the abolition of gender, so that we can all be free to do, wear, like, love whoever and whatever we want. Your argument seems to be that girls who like Lego, science, and don’t like pink must be boys, and that boys who want to wear a tutu and play ‘hospitals’ are really girls. In fact, the criteria for transitioning children and putting them on a medical pathway for life, are pretty much ALL sex role stereotypes, look them up! If you cannot see how right wing and regressive this is, we despair.
It’s interesting that all these men who ‘identify as women’ never identify with wiping bums and cleaning floors isn’t it? They don’t say I always knew I was a woman because when I park my car in a multi storey I’m worried I’m going to get raped. What does ‘identify as a woman’ even mean? What do they identify WITH?
We are seriously begging you to do your homework. If you want to talk about right wing regression let’s talk about Iran, it has the highest rate of sex change in the world. Homosexuality is also punishable by death. The government will however pay for you to trans yourself straight. The Iranian women’s football team has EIGHT pre-op ‘transwomen’ on it! Yeah, progress, liberalism! Not!
Look up the IOC guidelines on gender and women’s sport – all restrictions lifted. Look up Lauren Hubbard, weight lifter. Look up Fallon Fox MMA cage fighter. Look up Frank ‘Kelly’ Maloney’s domestic violence history, why the hell is a wife beater now held up as an example of ‘womanhood’? Yeah really left wing, well done!
Finally, Fox Fisher used to ‘identify’ as a lesbian? If men can be women, what’s a lesbian by the way, are you aware of the disgusting pressure lesbians are under to accept ‘lady dick’? Have you heard of the cotton ceiling where lesbians are expected to accept transwomen with a penis as sexual partners? Have you heard about the transgender pressure group Mermaids saying be being gay is a ‘deviant kind of thing’?
Fox is FEMALE, no matter how Fox identifies they cannot ever escape femaleness, and in any situation where Fox is read as female, they are at risk the same as all women. Look up the recent case of a transman who was raped. When the poor traumatized victim made their statement to the police, all they kept saying is ‘I told him I was a man, I told him I was a man’. Performing masculinity is no protection from violence for women. Gender is NOT a choice, nor it is it ‘natural’, to suggest it is, is to conclude that women choose their own oppression or are born to be oppressed. That is misogyny, no woman chooses or is born to be oppressed.
Sex discrimination is a crime, if you continue in such a misogynistic vein we will have no option but to report you to OFCOM. We hear many presenters spouting their misogyny like you do, and it washes over us as the usual ‘blah, blah, blah’, but YOU? You really, really should know better.
Women have a right to be heard on this. Most of us have been life long Labour voters, most of us are life long feminists, at the coal face of protecting women and girls. The LAST thing we are is ‘right wing bigots’. These are women’s concerns, we’d like to hear you discuss them.
Rebecca from Fair Play for Women