Zoey Tur vs. Ben Shapiro: Unprofessional journalism

It happens to transgender people often: People deliberately misgender them in front of others.

It happened to trans reporter Zoey Tur big time on Thursday night during a “discussion” with a six-person panel on a TV show called Dr. Drew on Call. They were talking about Caitlyn Jenner’s speech at the ESPYs, and whether she deserved to win the Arthur Ashe Courage Award.

The Advocate reports that the debate quickly got ugly when one of the participants, “noted right-wing pundit Ben Shapiro,” began misgendering Jenner and Tur, in the latter case using the “sir” term in a question to the reporter.

Tur, reportedly, didn’t handle the apparent slur with the grace you might expect from a journalist. The Advocate reports: She placed a hand behind Shapiro’s neck. “You cut that out now,” she said. “Or you’ll go home in an ambulance.”

To which Shapiro reportedly replied: “That seems mildly inappropriate for a political discussion.”

Indeed, Shapiro did have a genuine, if understated, point: it was more than mildly inappropriate. But Shapiro also demonstrated a lack of journalistic etiquette and professionalism by misgendering Tur on national TV. It was already obvious that Shapiro doesn’t buy into transgenderism — that’s why he was participating, after all — and he  could have made his points without demeaning Tur in such an obvious provocative fashion.

As for Tur, well, I’m sure she would like to have that moment back so she could demonstrate more grace under fire. Threatening to physically harm Shapiro is inexcusable, and she should issue an apology.

In fact, both of them should issue public apologies for their lack of journalistic integrity and professionalism. They turned what should have been a good, balanced discussion into a verbal street scrap, and undermined their credibility as journalists.

— Jillian Page, LGBT Perspectives editor


“Let harmlessness be the keynote of your life.” — Alice Bailey



11 thoughts on “Zoey Tur vs. Ben Shapiro: Unprofessional journalism”

  1. Since the sudden beautification of Caitlyn Jenner, voices that dispute the validity of transgender ideology have been shut out of the discussion and ridiculed from afar. This was perhaps the first opportunity for champions of the new orthodoxy to meet an opponent on a panel and everyone appeared half-cocked and too ready to fight, including panelists other than Tur and Shapiro.

    That said, there is no equivalence to observe between Tur’s and Shapiro’s comportment. Tur owes an apology to Shapiro and Shapiro owes no such thing to Tur. Tur laid hands on Shapiro and threatened him with violence. Shapiro merely said something Tur did not want to hear or have said.

    Jillian Paige above acknowledges that Shapiro has a right to question transgender ideology. She must understand that it is concomitant with that right to ‘misgender’ Tur, Jenner, et al. If it is established etiquette that one must pay service to transgender ideology by addressing a trans-woman with feminine pronouns, then it is a fresh directive passed down without any interest in seeking social consent, and is therefor illegitimate. The directive to use the ‘correct’ pronouns is also in direct conflict with a skeptic’s right to dispute the legitimacy of transgenderism in part or whole. The contradiction that has it that Shapiro must first agree to address Tur as a woman before he is permitted to dispute that Tur is a woman cannot hold. Neither Shapiro nor anyone else is bound to respect this broken double-think.

    Shapiro did appear eager to assert his right to describe the man beside him as a man. Perhaps he knew that doing so would – absurdly – be received as ‘provocative’. Another panelist stepped over his words with an eagerness to scold him for ‘misgendering’. This theater of outrage and offense was certainly unnecessary. But it was Tur who removed everyone to the back-alley with physical and verbal threats of violence and he alone is obligated to apologize for his behavior.

    As it stands at this hour, there is no evidence that Tur sees it this way – that he’d take the moment back, as Paige suggested. Rather, Tur is on twitter endorsing further threats of violence against Shapiro. Perhaps Tur’s behavior only reveals what stands behind the directive to use the ‘correct’ pronouns and the effort to shut skeptics out of the discussion altogether.


    1. I understand what you are saying, but in the world of journalism these days — I am a journalist for a mainstream publication — we are directed to use the pronouns people wish. It is common style in journalism, so Shapiro broke ranks with the mainstream. Which is why I said it was unprofessional — strictly in terms of journalistic protocol. Plus, surely Shapiro knew it would be insulting and provocative.

      They both acted badly, but you’re right: laying hands on another human being in such fashion is wrong. In Quebec, where I live, it could be deemed assault, and charges could be laid

      Jillian Page (not Paige)


    2. One more thing: The deliberate and persistent misgendering of an individual in public, especially in the media, could be construed as an act of hate, and in jurisdictions that have laws against hate crimes and bullying, the perpetrators could face charges.


      1. That’s a real problem. If it is a literal crime to not pretend to not know, it’s essentially a crime to be sane. As an atheist, I would find it very troubling if I couldn’t invoke the truth that creationists suffer from a false consciousness for fear of criminal prosecution.


        1. We all have freedom of opinion, to a point. But if Zoey Tur is legally a female in California, it is a crime to refer to her as a male in the media, and she might be able to sue those who misgender her for damages to her reputation. Her path to womanhood is irrelevant; she is legally a female. The grey area is for trans people, say, trans women, who have not legally transitioned and are still considered to be legally male. In the media, we still must refer to them as “female,” but the police/state probably wouldn’t in criminal matters (i.e. if one is a victim of crime or is alleged to have committed a crime).

          You make a good point about religious people, often the very ones who challenge people like Zoey. Those religious folks believe in a supernatural, mythical being. We can debate their superstitious belief systems, but it is their right to believe what they want. We cross a line in the mainstream media if we say religious people are mentally ill — something many people believe to be true.

          As for sanity: what is sanity in today’s world? Is it sane to let so many people go hungry on the planet? Is it sane to let so many people be homeless? Is it sane to allow Americans the right to bear arms? Is it sane to fill our atmosphere with so many industrial pollutants? And a vegetarian might ask, is it sane to brutally slaughter so many of God’s creatures for food in an era where we can produce plenty of alternatives? And on and on and on . . . you get the point. Humans do a lot of things that other humans consider to be insane.

          The gender identity issues of a relatively small number of people pale in comparison to the larger issues facing mankind today.

          All this said, Ben Shapiro is entitled to his opinions, and the debate was supposed to be about Caityln and, I suppose, transgenderism. Shapiro could have simply said that he disagrees with laws that recognize Zoey Tur as female — but Shapiro still has to abide by the law, just like the rest of us.

          I’m not an expert on California law, but don’t be surprised if lawsuits are filed in this matter.


          1. Thank you for your replies. I can see many points upon which we’re unlikely to agree and that’s of course perfectly okay.

            There are a couple points I wanted to clarify.

            First, when I mentioned sanity, I meant the literal sense rather than the rhetorical sense of the word. We may regard all sorts of social and economic policies as wrong-headed and describe them as “insane”, but that is something apart from a state of mind in which the correspondence between perception and reality is disjoint.

            It often seems as if the cause of transgenderism is taken up only to enjoy the outrage of fundamentalist Christians, who are easily outraged. Transgender ideology, however, is purely irrational and is in a real sense akin to religious superstition rather than its opposite.

            Still, the analogy as you restated it is imperfect. To perfect the analogy, the offense to decorum would not be to describing religious believers as mentally ill, but in not affirming that the earth is only 6000 years old. And it would not be a mere offense to a publication’s style guide, but a civilly acionable crime to say that the earth is older than 6000 years.

            Finally, as small as the problem of transgender people suffering from people not pretending to not know in fact is, it has certainly marshalled an outsized effort to upend the entire epistemic system of recognizing and relating gender, accompanied by alternating theaters of ritualistic celebration and shaming, This incident involving a transgender activist assaulting a conservative is not the first such incident. Rather, Shapiro joins scores of feminist women who have been objects of violence and threats from transgender activists.


            1. Yup. You are absolutely right on the latter point about trans activists and TERFS — as some radical trans-hating feminists are called. But that is a whole other subject: they battle each other viciously, verbally, at least.

              One of things that troubles me about arguments from people who feel transgenderism is a mental illness is that most of those people are laypersons, and they make assumptions about the chromosomes and DNA of trans people they don’t even know — and they feel they know more about this than the medical professionals who treat trans people.

              What causes transsexualism and transgenderism? There are plenty of scientific/medical theories, which you can investigate for yourself, if interested. But the important thing to remember is that there seems to be evidence that transsexualism/transgenderism happens in the womb, when hormonal showers misfire, leaving the fetus’s brain essentially female while the body develops male bits. There was a drug given to pregnant women (to combat morning sickness) from the 1950s to 1971 that eventually was known to cause birth defects, and was highly suspected of causing transsexualism in some “males.” The drug is now banned. Is it a coincidence that many of the males of the Flower Power 1960s and ’70s were very effeminate, and many of them have now gone on to be metrosexuals while others gender transitioned later in life? I highly doubt it. Meanwhile, our environment is awash in estrogen — you gotta think this has something to do with the feminization of western society and the increase in transsexualism? There is something going on here, and the fact that medical science accepts it and treats it by helping people gender transition tells me they know more than they are letting on. If they felt it was merely mental illness, they would treat it as such.

              As for religion, it is much more than believing man has only been here for 6,000 years. Many religions have persecuted and oppressed people — and still do (eg. ISIS and its primitive belief system). Jehovah’s Witnesses pray every day for the Battle of Armageddon and the slaughter of 8 billion non-JWs, and for a “new system of things” in which everybody would think like them. They raise their children to believe this, and to shun higher education so that they can pioneer, or “preach the good word” door to door and on street corners — and live in relative poverty all the days of their lives. It is mental illness, but those of us who know better have to stand by while religions lead people astray.

              Most of the arguments from feminists is about their “spaces” being invaded by what they see as a patriarchal system that has men “posing” as women. True, some of them are simply bigots, but for most it is about territorial rights. Society has to adapt to this gender revolution, if you will, by creating more gender-neutral spaces. It’s as simple as that.

              Whatever anyone may believe about transgenderism/transsexualism, it is here to stay. Mr. Shapiro can rail against it all he wants, but that won’t change the fact: it’s here, and we all have to learn to live with it and get along.

              It’s a new reality (such as reality is, says Alice). The sooner everybody has equal rights, the better. We don’t have the same types of problems in Canada, which is more tolerant than the U.S. LGBT people are mostly accepted here and mostly have equal rights — with trans people only lagging a little behind lesbian and gay people. And the sky isn’t falling on our society: people get along, and at the end of the day, the average person really doesn’t give a damn about who is gay, who is lesbian, who is bisexual (moi!) and who is trans.

              And that’s really what I wonder about in the U.S.: Why do people care so much about issues that don’t even affect them? Why aren’t they crying out about the tobacco industry poisoning people, the proliferation of guns, etc. Why are they targeting such a tiny minority who only want equal civil rights? Why are they picking on the small fry, and essentially bullying them every way they can?

              Let LGBT people have equal rights.

              (Sorry for this being so long. I do enjoy your comments. You are obviously very educated, probably more than me. You are most welcome to comment here anytime. I believe in being objective — that’s what we editors are trained to be.)



  2. “As for Tur, well, I’m sure she would like to have that moment back so she could demonstrate more grace under fire”.
    I find that unlikely – after the show, Zoey told Ben “I’ll see you in the parking lot”, and has since threatened on Twitter to curb stomp him.


  3. There’s no excuse for Shapiro’s lack of respect, and no excuse for Tur’s reaction.

    Zoey Tur does more harm than good for transgender people, perhaps that’s even why she is sometimes chosen to contribute to this type of discussion.


    1. Sadly, the right-wingers are having a field day with all of this. But most people will see the incident for what it was: childishness on the part of two people who should know better.


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