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Monday, December 07, 2015

On Germaine Greer in Cardiff

What the row over banning Germaine Greer is really about - "The word “TERF” is sprayed around like confetti, with very little understanding of what it means. I’ve been called a TERF, even though I think trans women are women and absolutely have a place in feminism. I think it’s become a politer way of saying “witch”. It’s also about undergraduates rebelling against their parents’ generation and its liberal deification of free speech. After all, the last time students tried to have Greer disinvited from addressing a university crowd, one of those defending her right to speak was Rachael Padman, the trans academic whose appointment to the all-women’s college Newnham Greer tried to kibosh in 1996. Padman said she hoped the Cambridge Union would “give Germaine a fair hearing, but of course robustly interrogate her”. Here was someone directly affected by Greer’s beliefs, defending her right to express them. The fact that the trans rights struggle is the first progressive cause to come of age in the time of Twitter leaves anyone who wants to explore the thorny issue of gender and biological sex, and the meaning of both and the differences between them, in a difficult position... several guests also said things which have become unsayable on social media, even by trans people themselves: one referred to using the term “trans*” (the asterisk denotes that the term includes not just transgender people, but those who reject the gender binary, or are otherwise genderfluid) and was told, laughingly, by others that this was very two years ago. There are places on the internet where you will be told to “die in a fire” if you write “transwomen” instead of “trans women”. (Not pressing the spacebar is said to indicate that you don’t believe they are real women). After a while, you begin to wonder if the opacity of language isn’t accidental at all. Trans activists, tired of being treated as objects of curiousity, fear or pity by outsiders, have decided to seize control of the discourse and develop their own ways of talking about how they feel. This is understandable, but it also means that everyone is constantly making mistakes... Even trans people who do not have the “correct” opinions feel worried about broaching the subject; I know a group of “gender critical” trans women who are castigated regularly as “TERF tokens” and “Uncle Toms”... If you "listened to women" on abortion, you'd hear a much higher level of anti-abortion views than if you listened to men, for example. What people mean when they say that is "listen to mainstream feminist opinion". But that doesn't have quite the same snappy righteousness, though, does it? Although trans issues have benefited hugely from the speed and reach of online activism, in other ways they have been ill-served by being the first progressive cause to blossom fully in the social media age. Nuance is impossible. Dare to write anything other than a saccharine celebration of diversity, or solemn sermons about how brave trans people are, and your opinion is read as an attack on the very idea that they should be allowed to carry on living at all... Should a person with a penis and beard (no surgery or hormones are required to legally transition) be allowed into a women-only rape shelter?... It’s not – as many people on Twitter seem to believe – as simple as identifying the group you feel is most fashionably oppressed and sprinting to shout: “Solidarity!”... there is now a strange conflation of rhetorical with actual, physical violence. Such views are said to lead directly to the dehumanisation of trans people that puts them in danger of street attacks and death. It is a difficult point to argue when confronted with the facts: the only person convicted of murdering a trans woman in Britain this year is Joaquin Gomez-Hernandez, who killed his wife, Vanessa Santillan, after finding her in bed with a client. He had no job, and lived off her earnings as a sex worker; a familiar tale of a bruised male ego curdling into rage. Not an avid reader of Germaine Greer, I would guess... The current orthodoxy is that issues should be left to those directly affected by them to discuss, but consider this for more than a minute and the absurdity reveals itself. The rights of severely disabled people who cannot communicate would, under this logic, never get discussed. Plus: gender affects us all; free speech affects us all... The new no-platforming of feminists means that one duff opinion sees you bundled off the stage, whatever you planned to talk about. Germaine Greer could go to a university to talk about her LP collection and there would be students desperate to ban her"
Women are more flamed for their opinions? But they don't get told to check their male privilege...

Germaine Greer and the scourge of 'no-platforming' - "The "no-platforming" campaign against Germaine Greer reflects a deeper sickness afflicting Western universities. While the stated aim is to reduce harm, the end result is enforced ignorance... Students at Cardiff University have seemingly been deprived of their opportunity to hear one of the most significant female intellectuals of the last century... It is important to note that while Greer has answered questions on transgenderism during interviews and panel discussions, she has not published any comment about transgenderism for over 15 years... Meanwhile, there has been an alarming amount of vitriol and hatred expressed towards Greer on Twitter. In her Newsnight interview with Kirsty Wark, Greer said that while she did not think that post-operative male-to-female transsexuals were "women", this was not a prohibition. If people wanted to pursue sex reassignment surgery, they should "carry on". "It happens to be an opinion," she said, visibly exasperated... In 1989, Kimberlé Crenshaw, an American scholar and anti-free speech advocate,coined the term "intersectional feminism". Intersectional feminism is about how people experience various forms of intersecting oppression, from racial oppression, to gender oppression, to other forms of marginalization. Intersectional feminism is vastly different from the kind of liberation feminism that Greer advocated in the seventies. It is the fashionable version of feminist activism that is present on university campuses today. Within intersectionality, free speech is dangerous. It is something to be overcome, not utilised for political effect. To protect vulnerable groups such as women, people of colour, sexual assault victims or transgender individuals, freedom of expression must be curtailed, lest someone's speech cause emotional harm."
There is a certain dramatic irony about feminists silencing and censoring other feminists

How Germaine Greer is having her voice snatched away by feminist students - "Since I read The Female Eunuch in 1970, when the feminist bestseller was published, I’ve been an irritated admirer of Germaine Greer. Irritated, because she has tiresome political views (a Marxist anarchist Liberal Democrat is hard to warm to), frequently changes her mind but is always sure she is right and can be guilty of sweeping unfairness to whole sections of society, especially men. But there is much more reason to admire Greer, for she has an original mind, challenges her followers with everything she writes and says, is never dull and has tremendous guts. She infuriated, inspired, energised and helped liberate generations of women and we all owe her a great debt of gratitude... Issues of sexual identity and orientation are very fashionable among the young at present. Being ‘cisgender’, is, in plain English, thinking you have the same gender identity you were given at birth, and straight is totally uncool. Non-binary or gender queer, i.e. being not exclusively male or female, is what’s currently trendy. But what is really exciting in today’s society is to be transgender, famously exemplified by Olympic gold medallist Bruce Jenner... As a young woman, I was happy to describe myself as a feminist, but it’s a label I have reluctantly come to reject. Like the majority of my female friends, young and old, I find those who now call themselves feminist a spineless, whingeing lot seemingly bent on claiming the very status of victims that Greer fought so hard to liberate us from. Most young men and women today take it for granted that they will have equal career opportunities and have better things to do than look for reasons to take offence. However, sadly, many of today’s self-declared feminists do not. Typical of their nonsense was the petition initiated by Rachael Melhuish, the Women’s Officer at Cardiff University Students’ Union... Greer, who has dedicated her academic life to opening doors and fighting for women to be heard in society, is having the door slammed and her voice snatched away by feminist students. An irony no doubt lost on the Women’s Officer... ‘check your privilege’, which you use to silence others. It operates a bit like a game of bridge: you can use your blackness, poverty, disability, homosexuality, discontent with your sexual organs or anything else that’s bugging you to trump those you perceive to be less oppressed and tell them to shut up... While people die under repressive regimes around much of the world for uttering criticisms of their rulers, ignorant and spoiled young people in the West declare themselves the judge of who can and cannot be heard on their campuses. There were always Left-wing students who tried to bar or shout down speakers from the Right, and they are still with us yelling about fascists and Zionists and climate-change deniers and Islamophobia. But contemporary feminists have taken such protests to a level of lunacy that would be hilarious if it wasn’t so dangerous to themselves and to society... Remember Nobel-prize winning scientist Sir Tim Hunt being hounded out of his job for making a crass joke? Or the barrister who was publicly humiliated for complimenting barrister Charlotte Proudman’s photo on a networking website? Ironically, they show the truth of Greer’s assertion in The Female Eunuch: ‘The fear of freedom is strong in us.’"

Germaine Greer gives university lecture despite campaign to silence her - "“I don’t believe a woman is a man without a cock,” she said. “You can beat me over the head with a baseball bat. It still won’t make me change my mind.” Greer quoted the BBC Strictly Come Dancing judge Len Goodman, who said when judging an unconvincing rumba that just because someone told him his pencil was a hammer, it did not change the fact that it really was a pencil. She also referred to a Will Young pop video featuring a naked trans man walking down a street, claiming that if an elderly woman had done that she would have been thrown into a waste disposal unit... "I do agree that calling people names may add to their misery but it happens to old women every day"... Greer said five women had approached her as she travelled to Cardiff to back her stance on trans women. “They said: ‘I’m so glad that someone is saying what we think. We don’t think that post-operative male transexuals are women but we are not allowed to say so’. I will say so because I don’t believe they are women. That’s not tantamount to calling them names. I also happen to believe that the surgery is unethical.” When it was pointed out that trans people were being killed in the US because of their sexuality, Greer replied: “We have two women a week being murdered in England by their partners. They are not my fault and the transexuals in America aren’t my fault either ... If you want to turn me into a demon you have to have some evidence ... I don’t accept post-operative males as females.”"
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