(Jill Connelly/ZUMA Wire/Alamy Live News)

Wheesht Spa

The Guardian would prefer it if women kept their mouths shut

Artillery Row

CubanaAngel, as she is known on social media, is the wrong sort of civil rights campaigner — the mainstream left would prefer it if she kept her mouth shut. A black woman in California, CubanaAngel has the wrong opinions, she worships an unfashionable god and probably doesn’t even give her pronouns when she meets new people. Despite not passing the political purity test, CubanaAngel believed she had the right to speak-out against something she felt was unjust. But when she did, the US edition of the Guardian, a paper which describes itself as “giving a voice to the powerless”, reported that she had made “unsubstantiated allegations” which had fuelled violent far-right extremism.

The story started on 23rd June, when CubanaAngel went to relax in a women-only jacuzzi at the Wi Spa in Los Angeles. In the spa she was confronted by a naked man who was exposing himself to women and girls. When CubanaAngel complained to the staff they told her there was nothing they could do according to state law, and that the offending man might in fact be a transgender woman. She recorded her encounter in a three minute and twenty-five second video that immediately went viral. In the film she asks the receptionist:

“So, its ok for a man to show his penis to young little girls… Wi Spa condone that, is that what you’re saying?”

The video led to a protest, and on 3rd July a cross-section of ordinary people assembled to voice their anger that women across the state of California no longer have the right to single-sex spaces. Some were Christians, one of whom had a sign reading ‘homosexuality is a sin’, others were feminists and LGB people concerned about the impact of transgenderism on sex-based rights.

Belissa Cohen, a feminist activist and co-founder of LGB Fightback, went to the protest because she “thought it was important to support the woman who had spoken-up.” But when she got there she saw around two hundred of counter-protesters, some of whom were members of the nominally ‘anti-fascist’ group antifa. They had assembled en masse to support Wi Spa’s ‘trans-inclusive’ policy.

Absent from the Guardian’s most recent piece is the fact that Merager will be imprisoned with women with nowhere to run

Gaye Chapman, owner of the lesbian magazine After Ellen said she “went there to meet up with a couple of women and check out the situation.” But Chapman, who was wearing a feminist t-shirt bearing the words ‘This witch doesn’t burn’, was mobbed by antifa activists and forced to leave.

News coverage in the US is seemingly terminally polarised, but what happened next dug a grave for the integrity of the Guardian, and then pissed in it for good measure. The US edition of the paper decided to run two stories which heavily implied the entire incident was probably a hoax, and that those who objected to males exposing themselves were narrow-minded bigots allied with white supremacists.

Guardian staffers Lois Beckett and Sam Levin  reported that unnamed ‘experts’ claimed the protests:

“offered a case study in how viral misinformation can result in violence, and provided clear evidence of the links between anti-trans and far-right movements”.

UK journalist Owen Jones praised their article as “a brilliant @USGuardian report on a campaign of lies”. And yet, the footage of CubanaAngel in the spa remained.

For a while this seemed to be a matter of “Schrödinger’s schlong”; a report both of a penis attached to a flasher and a sexless appendage dangling from the nether-regions of a harmless transwoman. As with the famed cat, what happened depended on who was looking.

Over the summer reports began to emerge of similar incidents at the Wi Spa. One mother explained that a naked man had joined her and her six-year-old daughter in a women-only hot tub.  She told the Daily Mail:

“He had a five o’clock shadow on him, and his penis and scrotum hanging out…The person I saw seemed like an activist… Almost enjoying everyone around them being uncomfortable.” She said.

Rather than “giving a voice to the powerless” they pretended his victims didn’t exist

On 2nd September, five weeks after a second Guardian article implying the incident was fabricated for political purposes, the news broke that charges had been filed against Darren Agee Merager for indecent exposure at Wi Spa. It transpired Merager was a registered sex offender with an extensive criminal history. The Los Angeles Police Department confirmed that five individuals had come forward, and that the department “conducted interviews of victims and witnesses, reviewed the evidence, and ultimately corroborated the allegations of indecent exposure”.

Responding to the news, the Guardian tied itself in knots with a begrudging report acknowledging charges had been brought whilst artfully avoiding pronouns and again smearing the protesters as dangerous, far-right extremists. CubanaAngel’s Christian faith was referred to, as if this somehow nullified her experience.

Notably absent from the Guardian’s most recent piece on Wi Spa, is the fact that Merager will be imprisoned with women who will have nowhere to run. In California, the Transgender Respect, Agency and Dignity Act allows prisoners who identify as ‘transgender, non-binary and intersex’ to be housed and searched in a manner ‘consistent with the incarcerated individual’s gender identity’. Were the Guardian serious about standing-up for those at the bottom of the pile, they would speak to the women now forced to share cells with sex offenders like Merager.

For all the Guardian’s handwringing about #metoo, when it comes to believing the women who complained about Merager’s crime, rather than “giving a voice to the powerless” they pretended his victims didn’t exist. Women like CubanaAngel are ideological inconveniences. Ultimately, the statement ‘if a person has a penis he’s a man’ is not a right-wing dog-whistle, its not even a political point, it is simply fact.

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