As a passionate, queer, working-class feminist who adamantly believes that feminism is no longer about just women’s rights, I was absolutely disgusted by the hate speech spewed by Germaine Greer on Newsnight. As a consequence of her hateful language about trans* people, the governing body of Cardiff University, where Greer was scheduled to give a talk on ‘Women and Power’, ultimately decided to ‘no platform’ her (or rather, they chose for her not to speak). As someone who has fought vehemently for the rights of women, Germaine Greer should be an icon to someone like me or any student feminist activist. But in my opinion, it’s hard to listen to any woman who claims that, “Just because you lop off your penis and then wear a dress, doesn’t make you a woman.”
Upon hearing this, my snap response was to call her a dinosaur and burn my copy of the Female Eunuch. However, this brings up the complex issue of whether one comment can give proper cause for the dismissal of all the previous fights that Germaine Greer has fought for women all over the world. Of course it can’t, but Greer’s opinion on trans* women shows that she has failed to catch up with the progression feminism is making in society. She is stuck in the world of the second-wave, still being praised for those actions she took decades ago.
“It’s hard to listen to any woman who claims that ‘Just because you lop off your penis… doesn’t make you a woman’”
Trans* women are a vulnerable, marginalised group and deserve their own safe space in feminist politics. Should we have stifled our feelings and waited for her to start her talk before bombarding her with anti-Greer banners and glitterbombs? At least this way she would have seen the effect her ‘opinion’ had on the student body. Or was it right to instantly silence her before her views triggered panic and upset? I asked the Facebook community for their opinion on why silencing her was the right thing to do.
One person said to me that because she makes regular TV appearances and has an immense platform to assert her views, it is ridiculous to think that the action of not welcoming her to the university is infringing her free speech. Instead it “stands up for trans* students across the country who shouldn’t have to have views like this officially endorsed by their places of study.” It’s an act of protection, it does not encourage ignorance around the issue of transphobia – it displays that these hateful comments have consequences, even for people such as Greer. ComSoc committee member Victoria asserted to me that “she’s not been silenced, it’s just been made clear to her that her views are not welcome in a place of learning and rational thought.” However, other Facebook users believed that the issue should have been dealt with in another way. An opposer of the no platforming told me how rather than shunning Greer, we should have allowed her to speak, so that students could knock her opinions down. “It’s important to hold these views of Greer’s up to the light to show how unviable, outdated, and utterly unsympathetic they are.”
“Transphobic views will always be met with anger by the student community”
It seems to me that the general consensus is that the university did the right thing in not allowing Greer to give her talk on ‘Women and Power’. Her biting views would have been harmful to vulnerable students at the university, and protecting their students should be any university’s top priority. Greer already has the privilege of having such a strong female voice in a society rooted in patriarchy – the decision to no platform her will barely tarnish her ability to express herself.
It merely shows Greer that transphobic, hateful views will always be dismissed and met with anger and disappointment by the student community.
Last modified: 26th June 2018