The witch trials of Davina McCall

Why the trans set is so terrified of women with opinions.

Brendan O'Neill

Brendan O'Neill
chief political writer

Topics Identity Politics UK

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It was more often than not ‘loud and opinionated women’ who were targeted by witchfinders, wrote John Putnam Demos, the great Yale historian of America’s 17th-century meltdown over witches. And so it is today. Nothing riles the right-thinking mob of our own era more than a woman with an opinion, especially if it’s an opinion that runs dangerously counter to their own. Exhibit A: the flapping hysteria that followed Davina McCall’s mild, polite expression of a point of view at the weekend.

Ms McCall, TV host and menopause-awareness campaigner, caused Twitter to suffer a fit of the vapours not by telling an off-colour joke or posting an obscene image or engaging in ‘hate speech’, but by putting up an 11-word review of a podcast. Seriously. The transsexual adult-film actor Buck Angel tweeted a link to The Witch Trials of JK Rowling, a pod series hosted by the Westboro Baptist escapee turned voice of reason, Megan Phelps-Roper. And McCall chimed in. ‘This really is a very interesting and balanced podcast x highly recommend’, she said. Ready the torches, dust down the witch’s scold – a woman has expressed an unsanctioned thought.

For the speechcrime of describing a podcast as ‘balanced’, McCall was denounced as a TERF. ‘Christ, she’s one of them’, cried a thousand men who think they’re women. The witches of 17th-century New England were accused of ‘entertaining Satan’, said Putnam Demos; McCall’s offence is to entertain Joanne Rowling, the great she-devil of the woke era, the morally fallen woman about whom no favourable opinion may be expressed. The poor women of Salem were supposedly seen consorting with the devil. Davina made the moral error of consorting with Rowling, of failing to damn her as an unspeakable bigot in the fashion of the digital mob.

The alarming sight of a woman with an opinion gave rise to some hilarious scenes. Pink News was first out of the gate, natch. Their reportage on this worrying development followed swiftly. ‘Davina McCall praised by anti-trans pundits after calling JK Rowling podcast “balanced”’, the headline said. You do wonder what goes through the minds of the Gen Z hacks who write this crap. One minute you’re at journalism school learning about the Pentagon Papers, the next you’re urgently filing copy because a woman called a podcast ‘balanced’.

Those ‘anti-trans pundits’ are the usual suspects, the kind of women who stalk the fever dreams of the alphabet bros at sites like Pink News. Kellie-Jay Keen, for instance, aka Posie Parker, who kindly tweeted in response to Ms McCall: ‘Do not back down… we’ll support you.’ First an unsanctioned opinion, now an unsanctioned act of solidarity? Is there no end to the brazenness of these errant women? The aim of the cynical lumping together of McCall’s intellectual curiosity with other people’s supposed ‘anti-trans’ activism was as clear as it was sinister – to signal to McCall that if she ever again expresses a positive thought about Ms Rowling, she will be unpersoned as thoroughly as Keen and other ‘loud and opinionated women’ have been. Davina has been put on notice. The guillotine of cancellation dangles precariously over her. Silence, witch.

Note the typically Orwellian abuse of language. ‘Anti-trans’, they say, about women who are actually ‘pro-women’. The rebranding of women’s rights campaigning as anti-trans agitation, and feminism as hate speech, and belief in biology as bigotry, is one of the grimmest achievements of the linguistic manipulators of the trans lobby. It creates a situation where anyone who says ‘I think women should have their own spaces’ can be instantly denounced as a destroyer of identities, eraser of souls. Where even saying a podcast is ‘balanced’ can become a suspect utterance, leading to a written warning from the self-styled guardians of correct-think.

Then there were the lunatic cries of trans activists in reply to McCall’s 11-word comment on a pod. ‘I’m so disappointed’, they said in unison. With what? A woman saying something? India Willoughby said he’s going to stop watching The Masked Singer because having McCall – a ‘transphobe’ – on the judging panel is no better than having a homophobe or a racist. Yes, calling a podcast ‘balanced’ makes Davina the moral equivalent of the National Front. ‘This has ripped my heart out, stomped all over it and shat on the mangled remains’, said one trans ally. Dude, calm down. A woman having a view won’t kill you.

What’s going on here? Maybe ‘transwomen’ have so thoroughly imbibed the sexist, surface-driven idea of what a woman is that they think they have to behave like dainty, fainting wallflowers to prove their ‘womanhood’. ‘See how weak I am – told you I was a lady!’ There is a delicious irony in the fact that men who masquerade as women are wailing over an opinion they don’t like, while real women will just calmly read McCall’s tweet and think to themselves: ‘Interesting. I’ll have a listen to that pod.’ It’s almost as if the trans set’s caricature of womanhood is just that: a caricature. Fellas, no amount of Victorian-style hankie-sniffing will disguise the fact that you have more testosterone than sense.

Here’s what you couldn’t make up: a woman expresses interest in a podcast about the witch trials of JK Rowling, and then she herself is threatened with a witch trial. The demonisation of Ms McCall only proves she is right to be curious about the maltreatment of women who raise questions about aspects of the trans ideology. Maybe there’ll be a pod series in the future called ‘The Witch Trials of Davina McCall’. I hope it’s balanced.

Brendan O’Neill is spiked’s chief political writer and host of the spiked podcast, The Brendan O’Neill Show. Subscribe to the podcast here. His new book – A Heretic’s Manifesto: Essays on the Unsayable – is available to order on Amazon UK and Amazon US now. And find Brendan on Instagram: @burntoakboy

Picture by: Getty.

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Topics Identity Politics UK


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