Has anyone noticed the remarkable resemblance of the wife in Quentin Matsys’ The Moneychanger and His Wife (above left) to the sitter in The Female Donor by Petrus Christus (above right)? Mother and daughter, perhaps, or another family connection? The Matsys is dated 1514 and the Christus c. 1455, which places them at least a generation apart.
This is not really a book review, but more of a review of Judith Butler’s review of it (see above, and further on). Faye’s timely book has already been fulsomely reviewed by Owen Jones and others. It treats of discrimination against transgender people and the widespread transphobia that gives rise to this. Though the book’s focus is largely on the UK, its themes have universal relevance. As Owen Jones puts it, “The Transgender Issue is the wake-up call we need. It is an inspiring call for coalition, across the divides of class, race, sexual identity and gender.” Anyone unfamiliar with the disgraceful British transphobia phenomenon can prime themselves, while waiting for the book, with an article Faye wrote for the Guardian some two years ago. Sadly, most if not all of the issues she raised are as alive today as they were at the time of writing. The same applies to a piece written by Owen Jones some three years ago now.
Obviously, it is a Good Thing that The Transgender Issue has attracted a favourable notice from Professor Judith Butler. Nonetheless, I would take issue with Butler’s notion that there are “arguments that merit a response and those which should be refused because they are either cruel or stupid”. This seems to me to be a potentially very dangerous distinction to make, since one of the core principles to bear in mind when fighting injustice is that all arguments “merit a response”. This is particularly true of arguments that are “either cruel or stupid” or both. Such arguments need to be refuted and rebutted, not merely “refused”, if any progress at all is to be made in stamping them out once and for all. There is a big difference.
The Transgender Issue by Shon Faye is available for pre-order here.