The Guardian recently published an interview with Judith Butler, a respected gender theorist who wrote the groundbreaking book Gender Trouble.
Jules Gleeson interviewed Butler, and during their conversation, critiqued the so-called “gender critical” transphobes and trans-exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs). These groups of people don’t believe transgender women are women and are opposed to transgender rights like trans people being able to exist in gendered spaces (like bathrooms, for example).
According to Butler:
“The anti-gender ideology is one of the dominant strains of fascism in our times. So the Terfs will not be part of the contemporary struggle against fascism, one that requires a coalition guided by struggles against racism, nationalism, xenophobia and carceral violence, one that is mindful of the high rates of femicide throughout the world, which include high rates of attacks on trans and genderqueer people.”
The Missing Section of the Article From the Judith Butler Interview
Hours after publishing the interview, The Guardian removed this section of the article. All there was to explain the missing portion of this article was a note at the end that said: “This article was edited on 7 September 2021 to reflect developments which occurred after the interview took place.” Many people took screenshots of the deleted portion of the interview, which has since gone viral on Twitter.
According to Gleeson, in a written statement to, the Guardian’s editorial team (especially the UK team) “folded” under pressure from readers who were offended by the article and instead decided to “censor” Butler.
Gleeson’s statement read:
“Habitual bigots online are going to do their thing, and usually respond to pieces without even reading them. What’s been more unexpected was how quickly the publication folded. I was expecting the Guardian US to stand by me as a writer, and while I have received apologies from their side, this has been a draining and consuming episode that I didn’t expect.”
How Did the Guardian Respond?
Gleeson also mentioned to Motherboard that Judith Butler had emailed the Guardian about their decision to remove that part of the interview but has heard nothing back.
When Gleeson last heard from the Guardian, her editor said, “there’s not much I can do” since the decision has already been made.
“I have not encountered anything like this,” said Gleeson in response to the Guardian’s decision. “A few people I’ve spoken to, including at the Guardian US, said this is unprecedented.”
When asked to comment about what happened, a Guardian spokesperson sent Motherboard this statement:
“On 7 September 2021, the Guardian edited a Q&A with Judith Butler as one question, posed by the Guardian, failed to take account of new facts regarding the incident at Wi Spa, which emerged late last week after the interview took place and the piece was written.
In light of those developments, the question regarding Wi Spa in the interview should have been reviewed again prior to publication, but this did not happen. This is a departure from our usual editorial standards.
We have not censored Judith Butler but addressed a failure in our editorial standards. This particular question omitted the new details that had come to light, and therefore risked misleading our readers. For that reason we decided to remove both the question and Judith Butler’s answer. As it was only this one question that referred to the Wi Spa incident in LA, the rest of the Q+A remains in place. Judith Butler has written for us several times in the past.
The Guardian remains committed to reporting on the rights of trans people in the US and globally, including the worrying attacks on trans people and their allies by far right groups.”
What Was the Wi Spa Incident?
Gleeson referenced an incident at Wi Spa, a Korean spa in Los Angeles in the removed section. This situation involved claims that transgender women had exposed themselves in the women’s area of the spa. The story went viral and led to various violent protests, another story that the Guardian has previously reported.
Last week, the Guardian reported that the LAPD filed indecent exposure charges and issued an arrest warrant.
Gleeson asked: “It seems that some within feminist movements are becoming sympathetic to these far-right campaigns. This year’s furor around Wi Spa in Los Angeles saw an online outrage by transphobes followed by bloody protests organized by the Proud Boys. Can we expect this alliance to continue?”
A spokesperson from the Guardian told Press Gazette that mentioning this incident and the lack of including the most recent facts led to The Guardian to remove this question and answer.
What Has the Response Been Like to the Redacted Section of the Interview?
After the redacted response, Butler commented: “The anti-gender ideology is one of the dominant strains of fascism in our times.
According to one Twitter user, they said that it was “ridiculous that the Guardian would interview Judith Butler about womanhood and not expect very frank comments about TERFs – the redaction is pathetic but unsurprising…”. Many other people have also been criticizing the decision.
Gleeson also noted that the article went through various edits before the interview, with several other questions and answers being cut. However, no concerns about the Wi Spa incident or Butler’s answer to it were raised during the edits. It seems that the reader’s complaints were what prompted this edit, and these comments came from the same trans-exclusionary radical feminists that Butler had critiqued in the answer.
Gleeson mentioned in her statement: “I was fully expecting [some nonsense]. Habitual bigots online are going to do their thing, and usually respond to pieces without even reading them. What’s been more unexpected was how quickly the publication folded. I was expecting the Guardian US to stand by me as a writer, and while I have received apologies from their side, this has been a draining and consuming episode that I didn’t expect.”