Promoting contested ideological arguments

Some uppity women responded to Edinburgh University’s “guidance” a couple of weeks ago.

We have become aware of an article on the University of Edinburgh’s official website in the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion section titled “What is transphobia?”. The article presents itself as an authoritative resource for students, and gives the impression that it is the settled, agreed position of the University. In fact it is a political piece, promoting highly contested ideological arguments as though they are undisputed facts. Many students and staff within the university do not share the views of the author and are concerned that one side of an ongoing public debate is being endorsed by the university.

Quite naturally, since it looks exactly as if the university is doing just that.

In a response to the Scotsman, the university stated:

“The web-page in question was designed as a resource to support students, inform discussion, and help promote a respectful, diverse and inclusive community.”

“Given the size of our community, it is inevitable that the ideas of different members will often and, quite naturally, conflict. We encourage members of our community to use their judgement and openly contest ideas that they oppose, and feel protected in doing so.”

I can’t believe that, said Alice.

Unfortunately, many students do not feel able to openly contest the opinions put forward within the article as a result of the intimidation targeted towards those who hold “gender critical” views.

Including violence, as they go on to say.

This document opens by providing a definition of transphobia: “Transphobia is the hatred, fear, disbelief, or mistrust of trans and gender non-conforming people.” This definition is broad, stretching so far as to encompass belief. What does “disbelief” mean in this context? In the university’s Trans Inclusion Policy, students and staff are advised to “Think of the person as being the gender that they want you to think of them as.” Could not thinking of a person as their desired gender be considered “disbelief” and therefore constitute transphobia? It’s worrying that a university is stating how individuals ought to think in official policy.

And where will it end? Will EU soon be telling students to “Think of the person as being the species that they want you to think of them as”? Will it soon be telling students to think of the person as the kind of object that they want you to think of them as, the kind of planet that they want you to think of them as, as the kind of bird that they want you to think of them as, as the kind of rock that they want you to think of them as? Is there any limit to this expectation? Is there any reasonable argument underpinning it? Why should we [pretend to] think of other people as something they manifestly are not? How can that possibly be a general rule? Chaos would ensue within seconds. If it’s not a general rule what kind of rule is it? Why do we have to play this game? Why is it expected of us? Why can’t we say no? Why are we being pushed and slammed and arm-twisted to play other people’s childish game?

Women are frequently demonised as transphobic for pointing out that in some instances there are conflicts of rights arising from the two pieces of legislation, and for asking for those conflicts to be explored and resolved. In “What is Transphobia?”, there is a similar attempt to paint women’s arguments as simply “dogwhistles” for bigotry. These “reasonable concerns” (concerns over the collective redefinition of your social and legal category tend to be reasonable) are described by the author as “a way to limit the rights of and marginalise trans and non-binary people”. Here, the “right” to self-declaration is presupposed, while women’s boundaries are portrayed as hostile and women’s right to speak on issues affecting them is dismissed.

Emphasis added. That’s exactly right, and I’m fed up to the back teeth with it.

H/t Your Name’s not Bruce?

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