Tell us more about the power differentials

A philosopher tackles some weighty issues in the disagreements between gender critical philosophers and what she chooses to call “transfeminist” ones. (What does that even mean? Identifies as feminist but is actually a misogynist?) I haven’t finished reading it yet because one item demanded immediate attention.

What about the claim – elaborated most fully in Dr. Stock’s Quillette column – that trans-inclusive institutional policies can constrain professors’ freedom to teach?

I think the answer here is mixed. Certainly, no one should mispronoun a non-binary person simply because they (the speaker) have adopted the scholarly view that there are only two genders. But there is an easy workaround. If, for some reason, I refuse to say “they”, then when engaging with a student who uses that pronoun, I can simply use their name instead.

That “the scholarly view that there are only two genders [sexes]” is funny-irritating. Yes, it’s a mere “view” that there are two sexes and not eleventy billion. It’s a mere view but it’s a scholarly view, as is the view that there are eleventy billion. We’re all scholars here, doing our scholarly thing.

But that’s not what made me stop reading in order to post.

But imagine an instructor whose expertise is in issues related to prisons and incarceration. Now imagine that, as is the case with many British GCF philosophers, the instructor believes that trans women in women’s prisons pose an unacceptable threat to the safety of inmates in those prisons. (For the record, I deny this view.) Does academic freedom permit that instructor to discuss this issue in the classroom? I think that it does.

Now, that’s bad news for trans students in the class. I don’t say this lightly. A classroom in which such ideas are taught is an inhospitable learning environment for trans students, in a world that is already plenty inhospitable for them. Not all of the costs of academic freedom are borne by faculty themselves. Responsible colleagues therefore attune themselves to power differentials that render students vulnerable, and seek to cultivate supportive learning environments. But universities can’t force them to do this.

That’s a strange move she makes there. Inhospitable for trans students, power differential, vulnerable…but what about the women in prison? Why does the transfeminist philosopher ache with concern for trans students but not for women in prison? Isn’t it likely that women in prison are a whole hell of a lot more vulnerable and at the mercy of a power differential than university students who identify as trans? Isn’t it in fact a near certainty? Which would you rather be?

It’s pretty breathtaking to see an academic who clearly considers herself – identifies as – progressive and woke and concerned in the right ways, so blithely jump right over the fears of women in prison to focus on the inhospitable learning environment for trans students created by talking about those fears of women in prison. The writer – Shannon Dea – apparently didn’t even notice that’s what she was doing. Class privilege anyone? Educational privilege? Freedom privilege? Not being in prison privilege? Being in a classroom privilege?

This is one of the many reasons I refuse to board their train, and it’s a big one.

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