More bullying

The Sydney Morning Herald:

Almost 100 academics have demanded the University of Melbourne take “swift and decisive action” in response to a website created by one of its lecturers that has been labelled “transphobic” and potentially in breach of the university’s own guidelines on research integrity and inclusion.

And how are the almost 100 academics defining “transphobic”? With the precision and care expected of academics? Or with the wild abandon of Twitter “activists”?

On Tuesday, Holly Lawford-Smith, an associate professor in philosophy at the University of Melbourne, launched in response to legislation in Australia and elsewhere designed to be inclusive to transgender people but which, she says, “replaces sex with gender identity”.

The site calls for women assigned female at birth (“cis” women) to anonymously share stories about any time they have felt threatened by transgender women.

“We’re worried about the impacts on women of men using women-only spaces,” the website introduction says, “including but not limited to: changing rooms, fitting rooms, bathrooms … rape and domestic violence shelters.”

“I think it’s outrageous that these changes are being introduced and people aren’t even acknowledging the possibility of a conflict of interest,” Dr Lawford-Smith said of her motivation for creating the site. “No governments are gathering data on this, there’s no place in the world for people to report where creepy things are happening in women’s bathrooms or women’s changing rooms or rape support groups.

I do think there’s an inherent pitfall in the project: the fact that the stories are anonymous means they can’t be authenticated. But I also know there’s massive pressure to shut up about any stories, so that’s part of the picture too.

The two dozen writers of the open letter said “they were concerned that material promoted and produced by Dr Lawford-Smith and taught to students “conflicts with the faculty commitment to diversity and inclusion”.”

But what does “diversity” mean? What does “inclusion” mean? Does “diversity” really mean “people who pretend to be what they’re not”? Does “inclusion” really mean women including men in everything, regardless of their need for safety or privacy or solidarity?

Concerns with the site were first raised on Wednesday by fellow Melbourne University academic Hannah McCann, a senior lecturer in cultural studies, who labelled the site transphobic, saying it “promotes the vilification of transgender people”.

There is a photo of McCann, who looks very inclusive.

Dr McCann also believes the site “is in conflict with the values of the university as a safe and inclusive space”.

Safe for whom? Inclusive of whom?

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