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Neopronouns and clickbait

Author:
clickbait

By Pip Williams

Content note: transphobia

An article from notoriously poorly-edited and sensationalist student news outlet The Tab somehow wormed its way onto my Facebook timeline yesterday. The article was titled “Oxford University students allegedly told to use ‘ze’, not ‘he or she’ to stop transgender discrimination”, and, unsurprisingly, the comments were a transphobic mess.

In recent weeks, The Tab has taken to sharing content centring around non-binary trans identities. A video by non-binary activist and Newcastle University Student Union Marginalised Genders Officer Saffron Kershaw-Mee garnered comparisons to cancer and paedophilia, prompting them to pen a follow-up article to a similarly unsympathetic response.

The Tab isn’t the only news outlet to capitalise on transgender identities for outrage-inducing clickbait. In July, national newspaper The Telegraph published an article titled “Boarding school teachers told to address transgender pupils as ‘zie’ in guidance on gender neutral terminology”. Whilst I was unable to source the official guidance from the Boarding Schools Association, LGBT+ news outlet PinkNews spoke with Alex Thompson, deputy chief executive of the BSA, to ascertain that the guidance had been provided at the request of teachers.

In conversation with PinkNews, Thompson explains how teachers felt “in the dark” when addressing pupils with gender identities unfamiliar to them. Far from instructing staff to use ‘zie’, the guidance provided the pronouns as an example of a neopronoun likely to be unfamiliar to staff. Neopronouns such as ‘zie’ are modern personal pronouns used in place of gendered pronouns such as ‘she’ or the widely used gender-neutral ‘they’. Many have been developed through discussion in online trans and genderqueer communities. Lists of neopronouns (such as this one) are one of the most widely available resources explaining their use. As such, it’s unlikely that the average cisgender schoolteacher would be aware of their existence. The aim of including ‘zie’ in the BSA guidance was, therefore, to demonstrate its use, ensuring staff would feel comfortable employing it if requested by a student – certainly not to say that everyone should be addressed with neopronouns, ‘zie’ or otherwise!

As with the Oxford University case reported by The Tab, The Telegraph chose to insinuate forced usage of neopronouns for all students. In the age of the internet, we all know how clickbait works. These false insinuations were intended to generate outrage, clicks, and advertising revenue – at the expense of trans people’s dignity and respect, and as we can see, this is an all-too-common theme.

I believe that The Tab’s article has been either amended, or deleted and republished without comment, since the release of Oxford University SU’s statement on the use of gender neutral pronouns proved several points incorrect. The statement outlines how “There is [a] possibility that our work and remit has been confused with the work of the wider University, whose Trans Policy and guidance does include a mention of neopronouns (pronoun sets like ‘ze/hir’, ‘ey/em/eirs’).” Again we see guidance on the usage of neopronouns in the context of trans equality exaggerated to the point of compulsory blanket usage.

The Tab article states – in a convoluted fashion – that “Claims were allegedly made in a leaflet given out by the SU says [sic] that deliberately using the wrong pronoun for a transgender person is an offence under the university’s code of behaviour”. Whilst we have established that the leaflets in question probably did not exist – at least not in any association with the Oxford University SU – this is a pretty standard anti-harassment guideline to promote trans equality in the student body. Sensationalising it in the news doesn’t change that most universities do (and should!) enshrine protection for trans students in their code of conduct.

I would also like to briefly touch on how the Telegraph’s headline stated that staff were “told to address transgender pupils as ‘zie’”. Whilst neither the BSA nor Oxford University SU were demanding the blanket use of neopronouns, it’s worth noting why this is a harmful concept in itself, particularly in the case of transgender students. For binary transgender individuals (i.e. trans men or women), using a neopronoun such as ‘zie’ in place of the gendered pronouns (e.g. she or he) they have requested is as much misgendering them as using the incorrect gendered pronoun. Whilst I would encourage people to use neutral pronouns on initially meeting someone (‘they’ is most common), it is important to be open to correction and respect people’s correct pronouns.

Kim Kardashian and the Right to Bare All

Author:
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By Amy Callaghan

It seems like we have a new Kardashian social media blowout every few days. From Kanye’s debt to rumours of Kourtney’s romantic attachment to Justin Bieber, the media can’t leave everyone’s favourite love-to-hate family alone. Typing the word ‘Kardashian’ into Google garners around 206 million results. But this isn’t another article preaching about the degeneration of media or questioning why, exactly, the Kardashians are famous. I want to discuss the latest Kardashian ‘scandal’–Kim’s naked selfie—and what exactly the fuss is about.

It’s almost impossible to have missed the photo or the backlash. If you haven’t seen the image itself, you’ve certainly heard about it, thanks not only to the usual anonymous trolls but to numerous high-profile celebrities who have made their contempt public news. Bette Midler for example, wants us to know that we’ve seen it all before. ‘If Kim wants us to see a part of her we’ve never seen, she’s gonna have to swallow the camera’, Midler jokes, referring to the infamous 2003 sex tape, leaked without Kim’s consent. US actress and model, Chloe Grace Moretz, argues that Kim should be using her platform as a celebrity to show young women that women are more than just their bodies.

In different ways, Midler and Moretz exemplify the very toxic misogynistic issue at the heart of this debate. Midler said later that she was not trying to slut-shame Kim, but it certainly sounds like slut-shaming to me. Moretz implies that a woman who is empowered by her sexuality and her body cannot be a good role model to girls and young women– both a problematic message and objectively untrue.

There’s clearly a double standard at play here. When Kim’s sex tape was leaked non-consensually thirteen years ago, it was hugely popular and it’s still watched today, despite the fact that Kim did not want it to be shared or seen by anyone. Yet when a confident and sexy Kim makes the decision to post a selfie, suddenly no one wants to see any more of Kim Kardashian.

Criticism of the Kardashians is nothing new, but I think what really bothers people is the fact that Kim is an empowered and self-assured women unafraid to share her pride and confidence in her body with the world. Women’s bodies are big business. Young celebrities like Emma Watson, like so many other girls and women, are threatened and intimidated by “revenge porn” from former partners. Unauthorized sex tapes become big news and big business. Yet when women take ownership of their bodies and post scantily clad pictures or selfies they are subject to vile, hateful insults.

Clearly there’s a huge issue with the way in which women’s bodies are viewed. As long as they are saleable and pleasurable and controlled by others they are acceptable, but if women give even a hint of being confident, of taking back that control, then she’s the problem. What’s alarmingly apparent is that these sorts of images and videos are sexier, more pleasurable, more attractive, if they are nonconsensual, if the woman in question is a victim.

Kim wrote an inspiring essay on her website in which she argued that she feels empowered posting pictures of her body when she feels good, owning her flaws, and showing her confidence to the world. This does not make her any less of a role model, particularly from a business perspective (she makes millions of dollars from her apps, clothing lines, and most obviously her reality television franchise). Kim has proven that she can be a successful businesswoman as well as front woman for a massive dynastic franchise, while still owning her sexuality and feeling powerful and confident in her body. She has shown that even in the face of malicious and toxic backlash from the media and others, she remains secure in herself. This is, in my view, a much more inspiring and powerful message than that put forward by those who judge and ridicule her. Not once does Kim say that a woman is required to be sexy in order to be successful – just that she should allowed to be sexy and successful, and show this off to the world if she wants to.

Kim closed her essay with a powerful statement: ‘I am a mother. I am a wife, a sister, a daughter, an entrepreneur and I am allowed to be sexy.’ As a young woman, I find this message inspiring. Kim doesn’t care what others think of her – she’s going to continue being herself and being proud of it. Regardless of the hate and insults, she is confident and unafraid. She is, as she defiantly captioned a photo after the backlash she received, #liberated.

 

An Interview With Eva O’Flynn

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By Anna Hill

I was really inspired by a speech that Eva made at a no more page 3 protest (the full text of which you can read here), where she talked about how the campaign had given her a voice, and empowered her to act, not just for NMP3 but for other important issues too! In response I thought I would interview some of the voices that are important, honest, hard working and inspiring in current UK Teen Girl activism. Who better to start with than Eva herself?! (more…)

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