So, notable second-wave feminist writer and scholar Germaine Greer is transphobic (more specifically transmisogynistic).
This is not really a point for debate because thereisaplethoraof accounts from her talks, books and articles, where she's been clear about her position on trans women and by extension all trans people.
If you believe that trans women are women, as you should because they are, then what Germaine Greer is espousing in her campaign against them is misogyny and surely no feminism should include any form of misogyny.
Hopefully you're still on board so far, because if you're not it can be assumed that no matter how measured and reasoned my position on no-platforming is in this instance, you're not going to agree. Perhaps you are in the same camp as Greer and don't believe that transphobia exists despite there being plenty of hard evidence to the contrary.
On 18 November, Germaine Greer is due to appear for a talk at a Cardiff University public event. Within 24 hours of this being announced a petition was set up by Cardiff University's Student Union women's officer, Rachael Melhuish, calling for the event to be cancelled and I had sent off an email to those organising the event to highlight her transphobia (as is evidenced above).
Now, since this petition began to gain some attention and it was covered by a coupleofnews sites (where I was misgendered in every single one funnily enough) there has been an awful lot of backlash, not just from anti-feminists but also quite a few women identifying themselves as radical feminists.
This isn't particularly surprising and I was fully expecting some sort of pushback. I understand some of the concerns that have been raised, once you've waded through a torrent of people excusing her behaviour, particularly about freedom of expression. In writing this piece I was hoping to address some of those concerns, maybe encourage a little understanding, or at least get the opportunity to clearly state my position.
The response I have heard most often by far, from those opposing and allies alike, is that no-platforming Germaine Greer is somehow infringing on her freedom of speech and that a debate or a protest would be a better option.
I can understand how someone who refuses to acknowledge transphobia as an issue or has a lack of understanding of freedom of expression laws in the UK can come to this conclusion but hopefully I'll be able to clear that up for you.
Freedom of expression is protected by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. This is part of the law of England, Scotland and Wales because it is included in the Human Rights Act 1998. The right to freedom of expression is also a fundamental common law right.
However, Article 10 is not an absolute but a qualified right which means that the rights of the individual must be balanced against the interest of society. Although there is no universally accepted definition, hate speech is generally understood to describe forms of expression which incite violence, hatred or discrimination against other persons and groups, particularly by reference to, among other things, their gender.
Like the right to freedom of expression, the right of each person to be protected from discrimination and violence are fundamental human rights thus the right to freedom of expression does not protect expression which seeks to incite violence, hatred or discrimination against others.
The European Court of Human Rights themselves have said on the matter: "It may be considered necessary in certain democratic societies to sanction or even prevent all forms of expression which spread, incite or justify hatred based on intolerance."
In Cardiff University's own policy statement regarding trans equality it states that they are "committed to providing an environment that promotes equality and eliminates discrimination for trans students and staff"; this includes the elimination of materials that "rely on or reinforce stereotypical assumptions about trans people" or contains "transphobic material". On those grounds alone, it would be fair to say that Germaine Greer's appearance at a university event is against their own policy on trans equality.
When we're living in a climate where trans women (particularly trans women of colour) are being murdered with little to no repercussions, are not even allowed to use the correct bathrooms, are harassed in their own home and hate crimes against them is still on the rise - do you think that debating Germaine Greer once again on whether or not trans women deserve basic human rights and protection is the key to a resolution?
For me the answer is clear: The safety of trans people outweighs the right of cis women to question the validity of their gender expression.