Silence them at once, please

There’s a petition to prevent women from talking.

We are members of the University of Edinburgh staff and student community concerned about the rise of transphobia on our campus. As a collective of PG students, we write this statement to unequivocally condemn transphobia.

The recent announcement of a transphobic ‘Women’s Sex-Based Rights’ event hosted by Edinburgh University Moray House on the 5th of June is unacceptable.

But was it in fact an announcement of a transphobic event? I’m betting it wasn’t. Let’s ask the Google.

Nope, that’s not what it’s called.

Women’s Sex-Based Rights: what does (and should) the future hold?
by The University of Edinburgh, Moray House School of Education

Nothing about transphobic. Let’s read the details.

The Institute for Education, Teaching and Leadership at the University of Edinburgh invites you to a discussion on the future for women’s sex-based rights, featuring a distinguished panel of feminist academics and activists. Whether you’re already familiar with the topic or whether you’re wondering what all the fuss is about (or somewhere in between), we’d love you to come, listen and participate in the discussion.

Earlier this year, feminists from across the world launched a Declaration on Women’s Sex-Based Rights. The Declaration is premised on the belief that women’s rights, as enshrined in the 1979 UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), are at risk and need to be reaffirmed. The writers of the declaration say that, “Recent changes replacing references to the category of sex, which is biological, with the language of ‘gender’, which refers to stereotyped sex roles, in United Nations documents, strategies, and actions, has led to confusion which ultimately risks undermining the protection of women’s human rights. The confusion between sex and ‘gender’ has contributed to the increasing acceptability of the idea of innate ‘gender identities’… ultimately leading to the erosion of the gains made by women over decades.”

With sexism and misogyny still sadly much in evidence, are the writers of the Declaration justified in their belief that women’s sex-based rights are potentially being undermined? What protections are still needed? And what can, and should, be done to reassert and protect those rights, globally and here in Scotland? This multi-disciplinary panel will consider future ways forward for women’s rights in a world of complex sex and gender relations. There will be plenty of time for open discussion and all viewpoints are welcome, though we remind all participants that dialogue should be measured and respectful in tone.

Speakers:

Julie Bindel: Writer; co-founder of law-reform group Justice for Women
Professor Rosa Freedman: Professor of Law, Conflict and Global Development, University of Reading
Lucy Hunter Blackburn: Policy analyst, MurrayBlackburnMackenzie
Dr Louise Moody: Research Associate, Philosophy, University of York
Professor Sarah Pedersen: Professor of Communication and Media, Robert Gordon University

Chair:

Dr Gale Macleod: University of Edinburgh

It sounds good, doesn’t it. I’d go if it were nearer.

But the people behind the petition think it sounds evil. They want it stopped.

We are calling for this event to be cancelled immediately on the grounds that it: (1) affords credibility in an academic context to views expressing hate and phobic sentiments towards members of the University community, (2) puts our trans and non-binary colleagues and friends at risk of physical and psychological harm, (3) provides material support to speakers with a transphobic agenda, and (4) seems to contravene the University’s own policies on equality and diversity.

We disagree with the notion of transphobia as a legitimate academic debate. As feminist academics we welcome debates on the complexities of gender and sexuality but strongly believe that debates that are premised on denying the rights and legitimacy of a marginalized group in society are not fair debates.

There it is again. What rights? What rights are being denied? The putative right to say you’re a woman when what you mean is that you feel like a woman in your head despite having a male body? And to force the rest of the world to agree with your claim?

The University of Edinburgh should not be a safe-haven for hate speech. In facilitating this event, the University is allowing a situation to go ahead that will leave students and staff feeling unsafe, excluded, and unwelcome.

So let’s exclude women who want to talk about women’s rights. Fair?

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