Trigger Warnings

by | October 26, 2015

Udo Schuklenk discusses trigger warnings in his latest article “Mustn’t We Talk In Universities About Whether Trans Women Are Women?

I have been watching for some time with ever-growing horror a movement of – let’s be honest, mostly progressive – folks, aka my friends, that strives to limit what we can and cannot debate in university settings. It happens on various levels and is quite insidious. There’s the thing about trigger warnings where we are supposed to warn our students each time they might encounter something in class that might deeply upset, disturb or even distress them.

Schuklenk goes on to explain

Part of this ongoing campaign to keep universities conflict free, and to avoid ‘offending’ students are no-platform events. No-platform events are events where particular speakers are no platformed, meaning they are prevented from speaking on campuses.

The latest request for a speaker to be no-platformed targets 76 year-old Germaine Greer “one of the major voices of the second-wave feminist movement in the latter half of the 20th century.”

Greer is scheduled to speak at Cardiff University, a public university in Cardiff, Wales, and even though Greer’s lecture is entitled “Women & Power: The Lessons of the 20th Century,” a petition, started by Rachael Melhuish, women’s officer at Cardiff University’s students’ union asks the university to cancel Greer’s appearance because

Greer has demonstrated time and time again her misogynistic views towards trans women, including continually misgendering trans women and denying the existence of transphobia altogether.

Greer, feisty as ever, defends her views in an interview with BBC’s Kirsty Wark

In an article in the Guardian, Greer criticizes the petition:

“I don’t really know what I think of [the petition]. It strikes me as a bit of a put-up job really because I am not even going to talk about the issue that they are on about.”

and Cardiff’s statement:

Greer said she had seen the university’s statement, which she said was “as weak as piss”.

“If the University of Cardiff cannot guarantee that I will not have things thrown at me then I won’t go there. I can’t be bothered.”

While Greer is blunt and uncompromising, Udo Schuklenk’s response is measured and thoughtful:

I do think one can have a legitimate debate about human-made categories such as ‘man’ and ‘woman’. However, I also think it’s pathetic that student activists think they ought to prevent such debates from occurring . . . It’s a great debate to have – we should teach classes on this subject.

While Schuklenk  is “troubled” by the fact that

there is a price to be paid for such open debate, and it is mostly to be paid by trans people, that is people who are subjected already to unacceptable forms of societal discrimination and disapprobation.

he goes on to say

while pleading for civility, I am convinced that a public airing of these issues is what is in the best interest of trans people themselves. It helped liberate gays and lesbians, we had to subject ourselves to debates about normality, and naturalness, whether we suffer from a mental illness, perversion, and what not else. . . . I’m afraid trans people and their allies will have to face these issues head-on, make their case with the best arguments and evidence available and win the argument in the public domain as well as in the academy.

Yes, let’s debate topics that make us uncomfortable, and let’s not launch petitions against people whose opinions about these topics are not the same as ours. Let’s not   silence Germaine Greer; instead, let’s thank her for her considerable contribution to feminism and challenge her “misogynistic views towards trans women” during the Q & A after her talk.

Warning: Germain Greer has had a lot of experience with misogyny; it may be better to use word other than misogynistic to describe her attitude toward trans women.

One thought on “Trigger Warnings

  1. ultra

    Stop your transplanting and check your cisprivilege!

    Clearly Greer hates women or she wouldn’t be literally raping them with her hate speech.


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