The Australian is Murdoch’s national, flagship newspaper where I live. Now and then it runs articles that criticise aspects of the transgender trend. A recent example is “About a girl” (paywall; originally in print edition 21-22 September 2019 p17), covering the de-transition of a young lesbian called Tracey. The article, by Bernard Lane, describes the cultish quality of her local trans group, and its ferocious hostility when she started to pull away, and when she said that lesbians have the right to skip sex with male-bodied people. The article also notes that the issue of de-transitioning is avoided by the country’s liberal ABC network, and by Australia’s leading gender clinic at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne. Themes like these are common in right wing attacks on the trans trend.
What might be more surprising is the article’s hard line against the sex role stereotyping of women. “I felt uncomfortable in my body and uncomfortable with the expectations that are put on teenage girls… I didn’t really feel feminine,” Tracey tells us. She relates that her parents urged her to “accept that you are a woman” but also “defy all the expectations put on women”, as an alternative to adopting a trans identity. Bernard Lane adds:
Now 23, she accepts her female sex and, much as her parents suggested, tries to loosen the social knot that ties women to narrow expectations… She feels for other teenage girls who wonder if trans will bring them the freedom denied by a constricting femininity… There has been a glut of celebratory media since Bruce Jenner changed his name to Caitlyn in 2015 and declared “figuring out what to wear” was the hardest thing about being a woman…
Five pages earlier we see some of The Australian’s routine catwalk coverage. Constricting femininity? Perhaps not if we accept the paper’s glass-ceiling feminism where empowerment means clearing individual routes into the middle class and elite circles, and women’s enforced focus on the body beautiful is just fine. But does it help us “defy all the expectations put on women”?
Still, this issue is worth a bit of hypocrisy. Gender ideology’s attack on women, and the left’s support for this attack, offer a golden opportunity – far too good to pass up – to tear progressive-minded women away from their historical attachments to the liberal left. This gift to the right will keep on giving as wider and wider layers of women discover the viciousness of gender ideology’s attack on them.
This issue also reflects a division of labour within Murdoch’s newspaper empire in this country. The Australian is pitched to a committed right wing readership; it works to harden existing prejudices and supplies arguments for readers to use against left-liberals. The state-based Murdoch papers, some with much larger circulations, are pitched to the mass of the population. Their role, apart from making money, is to win working class readers to right wing viewpoints topic by topic. So in contrast to their national flagship newspaper they have been very happy to push the sexist messages of gender ideology: article after article in these papers effectively say that the vast majority of women have a feminine gender identity and hence naturally love frills gossip and unpaid child care, and that discontent with such roles is “other”, the concern of a small minority very different to “us”. Whatever criticisms they may have of the trans trend, their support for the core idea of “gender identity” remains solid.
Of course The Australian too ultimately wants to keep the mass of working women handcuffed to femininity and unpaid caring servitude. But no damage is done to this purpose by shedding a few crocodile tears.