Growing up in a Guardian household, I was reared on liberal politics, forthright opinions, good writing and, perhaps most importantly for a young woman, feminist pioneers.
Jill Tweedie’s “Letters from a faint-hearted feminist” may not cut it in today’s cultural climate, but it was essential reading for the Seventies sisterhood, when female sexual liberation was still a work in progress.
As was expected from that forum then, Tweedie wrote whatever she wanted, challenging her own preconceptions as much as her opponents’ and confronting contemporary prejudices head-on.
Twenty years ago, former Guardian women’s editor Liz Forgan wrote a Guardian tribute to Tweedie, who died in 1993. Men may have found her terrifying, said Forgan, and “she was parodied, ridiculed and attacked”, but mostly “she became a focal voice of women all over Britain who wrote to her in their thousands and took courage from her to look at the truth about their lives”.
What would Tweedie make of her paper now? Like many bastions of the Left, the Guardian has betrayed ordinary women’s rights in homage to an extremist ideology that prioritises gender identity over biological sex.
The once proud defender of the truth has succumbed to the lie that men can be women just by saying so, and those who disagree, particularly women, are cast out as pariahs.
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Most shocking, though, it allows no place for debate, a common feature on the Left when the new orthodoxy is challenged.
The latest casualty of the Guardian’s censorship is the journalist Hadley Freeman, who announced this week that she was leaving the paper, where she has worked for 22 years, for the Sunday Times.
Freeman has become an outspoken commentator on transgender politics, arguing for the protection of women’s single sex spaces and criticising the way child gender identity issues have been handled by NHS services, such as the Tavistock clinic.
Named columnist of the year by the British Society of Magazine Editors earlier this year, Freeman nevertheless had to channel her commentary through media outlets other than the Guardian, where she was increasingly out of step with the groupthink.
Labelled “transphobic”, she wrote in UnHerd, which seems to have become a refuge for Left leaning women writers with feminist principles: “For the first time in my 20-plus years of being a liberal journalist, I felt completely isolated.”
She quit writing her Guardian column in September 2021, and focused on the less confrontational business of interviewing celebrities. She said there was “such an expectation of conformity of opinion” compared to when she first became a columnist.
“Ideological disagreements were just a normal part of life on the paper back then, and mixing only with those you agree with would have been seen by many journalists as embarrassingly partisan and unprofessional.”
Just over a year later, those ideological disagreements that the Guardian cannot countenance appear to have forced Freeman out, and into the arms of the Murdoch empire.
She is the latest in a growing exodus. Another long-time Guardian columnist, Suzanne Moore, left for the Daily Telegraph in 2020 after accusing her former colleagues of bullying her.
The final straw for Moore was writing that she believed biological sex to be real and that it was not transphobic to understand basic science. In response, 338 Guardian staff wrote to the editor complaining about its “anti-trans views”.
Moore, who said she had been censored more by the Left than the Right in her career, can now write what she likes at the Telegraph.
In fact, for a spirited defence of hounded feminists, so-called Right-wing publications have taken over the mantle from the compromised Guardian. Just this week, Madeline Grant at the Telegraph championed that most put upon liberal, J.K Rowling, for her “brave stand for women’s rights”.
Another Guardian contributor, Sarah Ditum, has also recently left for the Sunday Times, where she will be able to voice her fears over the erosion of female identity without intimidation from her editors.
It is not just journalists but female politicians, too, who are alienated by the Left’s capitulation to transgender zealotry.
The SNP MP Joanna Cherry, who has repeatedly clashed with her party over her gender critical beliefs, found herself applauding her political foes this week, when the Conservative MP Miriam Cates MP asked PM Liz Truss for a police investigation into the scandal-ridden child sex change charity Mermaids.
Cherry, a strident campaigner for Scottish independence, is closely allied on gender ideology with Rowling, a Unionist and major backer of Better Together during the Scottish independence referendum in 2014.
The transgender issue has broken down barriers between women on the Left and Right, and anywhere in the middle, who now seek common cause in the fight for female rights.
Older feminists, myself included, who can still remember what the likes of Germaine Greer achieved on our behalf, might despair at younger generations’ disdain for the movement, as they take their freedoms for granted.
But now those freedoms are under threat again – from the new misogyny of trans activism – and women must take up cudgels. Fortunately, we have, in Freeman, Moore, et al, a courageous vanguard and the platforms prepared to publish them.
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