Feminism in 2015 is one of inclusion and temperance which is entirely at odds with Germaine Greer’s unapologetic rhetoric. She has referred to transwomen as “female impersonators”, “ghastly parodies” and “delusional”. Her language is grossly insensitive especially considering trans* people are at a higher risk of violence and harassment. In her academic writing Greer does not consider trans* issues for their own sake, rather uses them in the abstract as exemplary of institutional cis-misogyny.
Accepting transwomen as women conflicts with her explanation of the social construction of gender identity. She claims this does not enter into her treatment of transwomen on an individual basis; in a recent interview on BBC Newsnight she attests that she would “with someone who wished to be known as female, use female speech forms as a courtesy”. In the same interview Greer notes the fact that she has not written about transwomen for “a long time” and it is not a subject she has any interest in returning to. Figuring her as actively propagating transmisogyny is therefore unjustifiable.
On 18 November Greer was due to give a talk at the University of Cardiff to address the triumphalist understanding of 20th Century Feminism. A petition was drawn up to no platform her on the grounds that she has used inflammatory language towards transwomen, does not consider them to be women and denies the existence of transphobia. The petition gained 2, 965 signatures of its 5,000 target, though it may have been met had Greer not already pulled out of the talk due to the backlash.
YUSU Women’s Committee reacted similarly to news of Julie Bindel debating the legalisation of sex workers last month, a figure with whom the NUS has deemed too threatening for its officers to share a platform due to her authoring similar writings on the subject of transwomen.
No platform was founded on preventing racist and fascist hate speech, with the intent to deter violence. It is my feeling that no platform is becoming a tool to censor people who hold controversial opinions and refuse to publically retract them. For such a phenomenon to enter the university space which should be one of pluralism, freedom of thought and open debate is unacceptable.
In a discussion with Evie Brill Paffard, co-chair of the LGBTQ network, I was alerted to the importance of regarding campus as a domestic space as well as a work space, i.e. a place where trans* students live.
Nevertheless I believe that if an individual or a group has socially corrosive ideas, a university is a comparatively safe environment to deconstruct them.
Recent attempts to no platform Greer and Bindel were based upon qualms that were unrelated to the subjects they were discussing. Neither have volunteered their opinion on transwomen in the last five years. It is only in light of this petition that Greer has returned to the subject rendering the claim that she continues to perpetuate transmisogyny problematic.
When asked for comment, Ashley Reed, trans* convener, said “The big problem is cis people (like yourself) speaking over trans* voices, blotting out our real experiences of oppression and ignoring what we’re saying.” I therefore urge trans* individuals to respond publically.
I don’t agree with Greer’s views on transwomen or FGM or clitoral orgasms, but if she were to give a talk at the University, I wouldn’t censor her.