To the prosecco feminists of the UK media, transgender is the real threat
Through work with Trans Media Watch, i am all too aware that the UK press is obsessed with trans people. A mix of insomnia and curiosity led me to do some very basic research and the results are shocking.
Now read on.
It has long been a given that the obsession shown by the mainstream media with anything trans-related is unbalanced. Out of all proportion to either the numbers involved or the actual impact on society at large, i noted sourly a year or so back, as the Times monstered yet another trans campaigner. Their crime? No more nor less than holding views on trigger warnings and student safety that just happened to be the exact same views held by many feminists and progressives since pretty much forever.
As it is, there are probably little more than 300 or so actual trans “activists” in the UK. Yet to read the “respectable” press, one would think we were an international crime syndicate, up there with the mafia in terms of our threat factor.
“…i could get used to [being treated like a mafia don], if it meant we were allowed to tease the likes of Piers Morgan with the occasional horse’s head in his bed scenario”
Which i could get used to, if it meant we were allowed to tease the likes of Piers Morgan with the occasional horse’s head in his bed scenario. But sadly, far too many trans folk are vegetarian for such a move ever to find community favour.
No matter. I contented myself with counting the instances of trans bias and bemoaning the absence of stories that COULD be told about trans people. The violence directed against us. The discrimination. The years long waiting lists for health care. But still, it grated.
Last night, tossing and turning in bed and unable to sleep, my mind turned to wondering just how this obsession was reflected in the numbers. So, i know, i thought: what about counting how often particular terms turn up in the UK press.
Some basic news stats
The result, counted in pages of Google links was “interesting”, in the sense that discovering your next-door neighbour has been sneaking over your fence in the middle of the night to sniff your panties is “interesting”. Here goes:
Of course this is not entirely scientific. I know, from regularly carrying out this search for the Trans Media Watch news feed, that a proportion of “stories” on any topic are no such thing. They are either articles that reference a term “en passant”. Or they are pages in publications where they have ONE trans story and have then helpfully stuck a link to that story on every single other page. Yes, Spectator, i’m looking at you: also Yahoo News.
Too, some links get missed on a basic search. I am pretty sure we have long been under-reporting Suzanne Moore’s views on trans people. Not because we have any beef in respect of Moore: but because neither she, nor the Guardian, where, until recently she was a regular writer, seem very to include the word “transgender” into stories about trans people. Further, the Guardian appears to prefer not to use the t-word as a tag on articles.
Still, we don’t use this approach for analysis of pieces: pre-pandemic, my preferred tool for more in-depth work was the full text news databases that i could access via the British library. And you’d need to dig deeper to get a more realistic picture.
Just as links to stories over-estimate the frequency of stories around any subject, so the use of synonyms and sensationalist terms moves the figures back the other way. So a proper estimation of the press view of murder would include murder, murderer and synonyms like “killer”: and a trans study should examine not just transgender, but trans, non-binary and other terms too.
But it works well enough when scanning the news for pieces of interest to the wider community, so that’s OK.
More stats: this time from books
What about the words used more widely. Well, i don’t have access to the sort of databases i’d like to access. Here, though, are a couple of charts from Google’s ngram app which counts word use in books.
On the plus side, we are still less of concern to the average writer than murderers or terrorists (who may be dropping down the public interest league table after a sharp spike in mentions post-2001).
“…while interest in rape and paedophilia appears, on this evidence, to be ever so slightly heading downward, the obsession with trans folk has yet to abate.”
On the other hand, we have stormed past rapist and paedophiles as topic of interest in the years since 2000. And while interest in rape and paedophilia appears, on this evidence, to be ever so slightly heading downward, the obsession with trans folk has yet to abate.
Obsessing over trans people…
Does this mean anything? Well, yes, and no. This piece and the accompanying stats are no more than a momentary spasm. Stuff i found by means of some quick and dirty searches in the middle of the night. At the same time, they are not nothing. They are indicative of two things, neither good.
The first is that they confirm, in the starkest terms just how obsessed the media are with trans people, and therefore why trans people are currently in the midst of a collective nervous breakdown. Compare and contrast, for instance, the term “traveller”. That turns up some 25 pages of news links in the past month.
So, great: another minority gets treated just as badly? But, no. Because the vast majority of those links — maybe 90% — relate to pieces concerning what will happen to everyday travellers going on holiday next year post-Brexit: or now, during the pandemic.
…means ignoring women’s issues
“…if you are due to file one piece a week, a fortnight, a month, then every piece you write about trans people is a piece you are not writing about issues, like violence or rape,”
Second, insofar as press coverage of certain issues — like violence against women — is dominated by government statements and the current focus of the various prosecco feminists writing for them, this is missed opportunity writ large. Because if you are due to file one piece a week, a fortnight, a month, then every piece you write about trans people is a piece you are not writing about issues, like violence or rape, even though i suspect these are of direct concern to rather more women than stories about trans folk.
Given, too, the fact that the press like to present themselves as just worried about the children, the fact that transgender is on a par with paedophile in the first table — and attracts about twice the interest as paedophilia is likewise a highly concerning statistic.
This is neither gospel nor peer-reviewed academic paper. It is me, jotting down some thoughts: thinking aloud. I know this is not an end point and it is for the various academics and feminists, corpus linguists and gender theorists to step up and do some of the harder work.
Still, it highlights a depressing, disturbing trend in the UK media. And it does not look like it is going away any time soon.