Why Germaine Greer is not entitled to a platform

Deemed a misogynist by Cardiff University’s Women’s Officer, controversial activist and writer Germaine Greer has come under scrutiny this week for her views towards trans women. Greer has been prevented from delivering a planned lecture there on ‘Women & Power: The Lessons of the 20th Century’ following the launch of a petition for her to be barred.

The Guardian questioned ‘why would the women’s officer of a university… not want Greer, canonical feminist, to come and speak?’. but given that this is not the first time that she has been known to make offensive comments, having deemed trans women ‘parodies’ in 2009, I’d say that the decision to stop her from attending is a perfectly understandable one. Greer accused transgender women of ‘inflicting an extraordinary act of violence [on themselves]’ by having gender reassignment surgery. Going on to say that, although she is not against people having the procedure, such surgery ‘doesn’t make you a ******* woman.’ I personally do not believe that she is in the position to judge this, and it surely goes without saying that it is up to the individual to decide how they identify. Furthermore, by speaking in this way Greer drastically reduces and ignores the varying definitions of gender and sex, and her comments were deemed ‘grossly offensive’ and ‘absurd’ by Rebecca Root, a transgender actress and comedian, who said that she ‘should know better’.

Appearing on Newsnight on 23rd October, she certainly didn’t do herself any favours or make any apologies for her shocking comments, stating ‘people get hurt all the time, I’m not about to walk on eggshells’. She also validated the concerns put forward in the petition by firstly wrongly gendering trans woman Caitlyn Jenner, and then denying that transphobia exists by stating that ‘it is simply not true that intersexual people suffer in a way that other people don’t suffer.’ I’d say this is a grave misjudgement given that hate crimes against transgender people are on the increase, and a reported 41% have attempted suicide before. Some may say that Greer’s comments are simply ‘out of date’ due to a generation gap, but this cannot be used as an excuse. If an overtly racist speaker was scheduled to attend a university, there would be outrage and rightly so. This circumstance is not drastically different in protecting those who are more vulnerable to abuse.

There was further debate on Newsnight this week when LUU Union Affairs Officer Toke Dahler, and The Times columnist David Aaronovitch debated ‘no platform’ policy. Aaronovitch’s focus was that university should ‘ensure a lively debate and discussion’ so that students are not ‘sealed away’ from the real world, but considering the context of this week, Dahler countered it perfectly. It is one thing opening students up to a wide range of viewpoints, yet something very different to consider whether ‘students would feel threatened or unsafe by inviting certain speakers’. To do so in this case would have left anyone identifying as transgender feeling under threat.

Helen Brealey

[Image: Getty Images]

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