Feminism | NoConflictTheySaid

Dr. Holly Lawford-Smith at University of Melbourne is currently under attack from researchers involved in critical social justice activism over a website critics claim to be transphobic. The purpose of the website is to collect stories from women on how their use of women-only spaces has been impacted by the new legislation that replaces sex with gender identity.

From the website:

In Australia and around the world, legislation is being introduced that replaces sex with gender identity. […] We’re worried about the impacts on women of men using women-only spaces, including but not limited to: changing rooms, fitting rooms, bathrooms, shelters, rape and domestic violence refuges, gyms, spas, sports, schools, accommodations, shortlists, prizes, quotas, political groups, prisons, clubs, events, festivals, dating apps, and language. If we can’t collect data, we can at least collect stories. Please tell us how your use of women-only spaces has been impacted. All stories will be published anonymously. If you know of other women who have been impacted, please encourage them to tell their stories too.

Researchers with a critical social justice view are currently mobilising on Twitter to make life difficult for Holly. An open letter has been created calling for University of Melbourne to take actions against the website and against a subject on feminism that Holly has developed and runs at the university. The letter has got over 1000 signatories in only a day.

They are trying many different routes to silence Holly.

There is also an immature recommendation to simply irritate/provoke/harass her by donating money to a transgender organisation in her honor, meaning that she will get an email each time someone makes a donation in her name.

Today, anonymous researchers have spammed the submission form on the website, shutting it down.

Below are a few of the stories from the website, some of the voices these researchers are actively trying to silence.

Attended a female-only swimming session in a small pool in the Midlands. […] There were three of us in the pool - myself and another female, and a person who was obviously male. The lifeguard said she was powerless to ask him to leave because of the Gender Recognition Act. She said she could not even remind him it was a female-only session as she might cause him offence. The other woman and I carried on swimming. He then began getting in our way and trying to touch us as we passed him. We both moved away. He then began openly masturbating in the pool. We got out only for him to follow us through the showers to the changing rooms. I locked myself in a cubicle, quickly changed and fled the pool. I never returned. […]

https://www.noconflicttheysaid.org/post/swimming-pool

Before COVID, I had finally worked up the nerve to attend a support group for “battered women.” I was raped by my then-boyfriend, who had been physically abusive leading up to it. At the time of the rape, my only outside contact was with my boyfriend’s brother, as I had been isolated from my friends and family over the years. I confided in him, and he provided every excuse under the sun. Maybe I hadn’t said “no” loud enough. Maybe he had an ear infection because he’s prone to getting those so he couldn’t hear clearly (yes, really). It took another year for me to leave. It took five for me to talk about it with anyone, but when I finally felt brave enough, I didn’t know why I had waited so long. Here was a group of women who understood where I was coming from; they had been through what I had. It was life-changing. Three sessions in, an obvious male appeared in this women’s-only group. One woman was immediately vocal about being against it, but the rest of us (including me, which I regret, needless to say) scolded her for not being inclusive enough. Occasionally he would pipe up with an excuse or victim-blaming for one of our exes that sounded so much like my boyfriend’s brother it started to open my eyes. He would defend this as what he called “gentle devil’s advocate” and claim it “helped keep us grounded from our grief.” What happened next was a horrible chain of events involving this male getting a boner during a meeting, being found to have sent dickpics to other members, and it would become known he had not only not been abused, he had never actually dated a male at all, let alone an abusive one. In telling this story, the reaction has mostly been the same: “Oh, that’s awful… But it’s she/her, she’s still a woman.” Are you kidding me?

https://www.noconflicttheysaid.org/post/support-group-for-abuse-rape

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This blog post by a fellow philosopher is a meaningful and quite nuanced read:

However, the author claims that the website asks cis (people whose gender identity matches their biological sex) women to submit stories “to highlight “conflicts of interest” between them and trans women”. This is factually incorrect. The website asks “women” to share their stories “of men using women-only spaces”.

Please tell us how your use of women-only spaces has been impacted [by the] (“legislation” […] that replaces sex with gender identity").

Thus, the phrasings on the website do invite all people who are women to share their stories on how they have been impacted by the new legislation. Whether it’s a cis woman or a woman who once was a man is left undefined. This means that some transpeople are invited to submit while others are not; it’s not cis versus trans, as people tend to claim.

Some of the shared stories do seem a bit transphobic and off topic. The off topic stories (ie those that do not actually concern the new legislation, e.g. some recent stories that describe events taking place 30 years ago) could be removed.

However, several stories published on the website clearly describes cis men (in some cases the men had even explicitly said to the women that they are cis men), who don’t seem to truly be transpeople, exploiting the new legislation to harass women. This is exactly the type of stories I personally find very important to hear out and I’m both confused, irritated and sad to see colleagues claim this to be transphobia. Such cases has nothing to do with trans at all; it’s about cis men harassing women (i.e. both cis and MTF). It’s about cis men posing as transwomen to get access to women-only spaces. Why on earth defend that?

The open letter to Uni of Melbourne now has over 1400 signatories, 300 of them are academics (100 of them from Uni of Melbourne).