Sunday, 31 January 2010

Who's Afraid of Beatrix Campbell?

Here's an interesting idea from sci-fi author Justine Larbalestier: mansplaining. Mansplaining is when men explain things to women which women actually understand better than men. Very often this is men explaining to women why sexist comments aren't actually sexist. Larbalestier points out there are other variants of this, such as whitesplaining, where white people explain to black people why something isn't racist.

It struck me - and this can't be an original thought, I'm sure others have had it before me - that you could also have cisplaining, wherein cis people explain to trans people how something isn't really transphobic. Hmm, I thought, I wonder where I could find a good example of cisplaining to illustrate the point?

Why, in the Guardian, of course! For it would seem that Bea Campbell has decided to bravely leap to Julie Bindel's defense and protect her from those mean people who protested against her on Friday.

Weirdly, I'm actually okay with this. The reason for this is, from perusing her wikipedia entry, I've found that Campbell has  a pretty interesting record when it comes to defending people.

She endorsed the Newcastle City Council report into allegations of child abuse at Shieldfield Nursery in 1993. The two alleged perpetrators of this abuse had already been found innocent in a criminal trial, but Campbell believed the Council report was 'stringent' and had uncovered 'persuasive evidence of sadistic and sexual abuse'.

The two nursery workers accused of this abuse successfully sued the 'independent review team' who produced the report, and were awarded the maximum possible damages, with the judge admitting that the report ' they must have known to be untrue' and that the only likely explanation for this was 'malice.'

Campbell also defended the prosecution of Sally Clark, who was imprisoned for the alleged murder of two of her sons. Campbell based her belief in Clark's guilt on the most stringent of scientific grounds, arguing that 'motherhood...can make some women lose their minds.'

Sally Clark was found not guilty on appeal, and released, after the 'scientific' evidence against her was found to be faulty. (This is not a happy ending, though. Clark emerged from prison a broken woman, by all accounts, and died of acute alcohol intoxication at the tragically young age of forty-two. I would like to think Campbell loses sleep over the thought that her words contributed to the demonisation and eventual suicide of an innocent woman. I would like to think that, but I would like to think I will be awarded the TS Eliot prize on the same weekend I win the lottery and find out Katee Sackhoff really, really likes me.)

They say God loves a tryer though, in which case ze must be quite fond of Campbell. Unchastened by these past experiences of failure, she went to the mat for paediatrician David Southall, who had testified against Clark and had also been involved in some ethically and scientfically dodgy medical research on Munchausen's by Proxy. With the same level of high-minded scientific reasoning she had displayed in her examination of the Clark case and the Newcastle Council report, Campbell declared that Southall 'established a gold standard in the detection of lethal child abuse.'

In 2007, Southall was struck off the medical register by the General Medical Council for 'professional misconduct.' The judgement specifically referred to his role in the Clark case and other legal proceedings involving child abuse, with Justice Blake saying that Southall 'had speculated on non-medical matters in an offensive manner entirely inconsistent with the status of an independent expert.'

So you'll excuse me if I don't quake in my New Rocks at the thought that Beatrix Campbell has decided to go into battle for Julie Bindel, armed with the sword of wonky science and the shield of blinkered ideology. Based on Campbell's past record at championing other peoples' causes, if I was Bindel I'd get the next plane to Tuscany - and not bother booking a return flight.

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