Columnist Daniella Greenbaum today quit her job at the Business Insider, but not before a column considered too transphobic for publication found a new home at The Weekly Standard.
Greenbaum resigned after Business Insider took down her column, in which she defends actress Scarlett Johansson from criticism that she is playing a transgender man in a new film, Rub & Tug. Business Insider justified the removal of her column "because, upon further review, we decided it did not meet our editorial standards."
Greenbaum tweeted the resignation letter she sent to BI's global editor-in-chief Nicholas Carlson, which listed other "controversial" positions she held.
"I believe female actors can play men and trans men. That is the apparently controversial view that inspired BI to take down my piece," Greenbaum tweeted.
In her resignation letter, she said, "Apparently that radical view — that actors should be free to act — is beyond the pale of acceptable opinion, as just a few hours after it went up, the piece was erased from the site following a campaign against me."
This "campaign" likely refers to complaints made by employees, as reported by The Daily Beast. If the employees complained about the offensiveness of the column, they would be joining transgender activists and allies who point out — among a number of arguments — that having a woman play the role of a transgender man promulgates myths about what it means to be trans, as if the role of Dante "Tex" Gill — based on a real transgender man — could ever appropriately be played by a cisgender woman.
Carlson said that he was not trying to limit Greenbaum on the basis of her political opinions, and that he primarily objected to her "partisan name-calling." Evidence that he did not impose an ideological litmus test on Greenbaum lies in her own BI byline. Other "controversial" opinions Greenbaum listed in her resignation letter, like believing that "members of gang MS 13 are animals" and that Hamas "is the worst enemy the Palestinian people have" have been expressed in columns published in Business Insider.
Amid all this, The Weekly Standard, a conservative magazine, said "Defending an actress for being hired to do a job is apparently beyond the pale these days" when it headlined the column “Here Is the Column That Business Insider Spiked,” running the piece as originally written.
Greenbaum in her column quotes public complaints by transgender actresses, including Trace Lysette, who called Johansson playing a trans man "so twisted." They made the case that Johansson is taking roles from trans actors who already face discrimination in casting.
"Not only do you play us and steal our narrative and our opportunity but you pat yourselves on the back with trophies and accolades for mimicking what we have lived," Lysette tweeted.
Columnist for The Advocate, Amanda Kerri, called for a boycott of the film to try and help send the message that "caricatures" of what it means to be trans are no longer acceptable. "It's time to make these movies so unpopular that no one will see them, that we drop the pretense of it being art and not caricature, and that we show we are done being exploited," she wrote.
Greenbaum argues that, "It's hard to imagine people having the same reaction in other scenarios — a rich actor being hired to play a poor person; an actor whose real-life parents were still living being hired to play an orphan; a perfectly nice, upstanding member of society being cast as a rapist; or an actor with no scientific experience being cast as a paleontologist."
"The job of an actor is to represent someone else," adds Greenbaum, never acknowledging the misconceptions it demonstrates about gender. "Johansson's identity off the screen is irrelevant to the identities she plays on the screen. That's what she's paid for."
Lucas Grindley and Aryn Plax contributed to this report.