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TERF Hurts

Controversy and the Australian second‑wave feminist Germaine Greer have unfailingly gone hand-in-hand over these last few decades, with much of this attributable to her vocal, yet divisive, opinions about transgender people (mainly trans women in particular).

The latest chapter in Greer’s fraught dealings with the transgender community concerned a recent invitation by Cardiff University for her to deliver a lecture, sparking moves by student activists petitioning the university to rescind their invitation on account of Greer’s record of outspoken hostility towards trans women.

As it turned out, the university refused the petition and Greer went ahead despite protestors appearing at the lecture, and in spite of earlier reports that Greer had, in fact, declined the invitation.

The petition calling for Greer to be deprived of her lecturing platform, organised by Cardiff University student union women’s officer Rachel Melhuish, was signed by more than 3,000 people and, in large part, reads as follows:

“Greer has demonstrated time and time again her misogynistic views towards trans women, including continually misgendering trans women and denying the existence of transphobia altogether.

Trans-exclusionary views should have no place in feminism or society. Such attitudes contribute to the high levels of stigma, hatred and violence towards trans people – particularly trans women – both in the UK and across the world.

While debate in a University should be encouraged, hosting a speaker with such problematic and hateful views towards marginalised and vulnerable groups is dangerous. Allowing Greer a platform endorses her views, and by extension, the transmisogyny which she continues to perpetuate.

Universities should prioritise the voices of the most vulnerable on their campuses, not invite speakers who seek to further marginalise them.”

Many have cried foul over this particular attempt at no‑platforming on free speech grounds. Greer’s defenders claim that everybody has the right to utter their opinions and if Greer is prevented from doing so the rest of us won’t benefit (or otherwise, depending on one’s viewpoint) from her contribution to the “market of ideas.”

The exception in Greer’s case is that the horse bolted long ago, one could say, given her long, busy-bodying, and sadly consistent, career in wanting to make public debate over questioning somebody else’s sense of their own being, of their self identity.

Germaine Greer’s long career as a figurehead of the trans‑exclusionary radical feminism (TERF) movement is, in itself, problematic because of all that we know about the perverted roles that prejudice plays in entrenching economic discrimination, fomenting social stigmatisation and ostracism, and, worst of all, encouraging both vigilante (by private individuals and groups) and organised (by the state) acts of violence, against trans women.

Study after study depressingly reveals the malign effects of the TERF agenda, whose proponents speak out against dignifying trans women the fundamental liberty of expressing who they are in terms of their gender identity.

Essentially, TERFs who insist that, somehow, “trans women aren’t real women” contribute to the anti‑libertarian cultural climate that exists today — in this case whereby constraints prohibiting the exaction of physical and other harms against transgender members of our communities are radically reduced.

This is all quite puzzling when one thinks more about it, given feminists themselves have always called for a pro‑libertarian equality of decent treatment for all people, regardless of their gender.

Even if one is sceptical about the efficacy, and even the merits, of no‑platforming in this age of decentralised social media communications, libertarians should be most hesitant to endorse TERF prejudices undermining our painstaking efforts to help build a better, freer world for more people.

Citations to this article:

  • Mikayla Novak, TERF hurts, Augusta Free Press, 2016-12-16
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