Who gets to define womanhood? (hint – it’s not Germaine Greer)

University is not supposed to be everybody-gets-a-turn town.

Describing the protests against her speaking at Cardiff University recently as ‘a campaign to silence her’ was petulant whining on the part of Germaine Greer. Just because you have something to say does not make it intrinsically worth listening to, and certainly not in a university lecture. The role of a university is to encourage informed discussion and debate based on a sound knowledge of the background issues and relevant facts, not to provide a platform from which to express intransigent personal opinions. No matter what their previous background, anyone who argues from a position of ‘because I said so’ does not deserve a forum to speak, regardless of the issue.

Who is Germaine Greer to decide what defines a woman, or to reduce the complexities of transgender to the disparaging term (ironically enough, most frequently used in an attempt to demean and silence women) ‘attention seeking behaviour’? I know who I’d call attention-seeking.

And quite frankly, the attitude that one is entitled to have one’s own way regardless of the concerns of others or the potential impact on them is what underlies rape culture. Does that make Germaine Greer ‘not a real feminist’?

At the heart of her opinions is fear. Fear that there is not enough womanhood to go around. Fear that transgender women are not individuals, but are somehow part of a conspiracy by men to undermine feminism. Fear of loss, and fear of change.

It is the same fear that underlies our resistance, for example, to migrants with cultural and religious backgrounds different from our own. The fear that including them will change our very definition of what it is to be ‘us’, that by including them we will have to give up some part of ourselves.

But you know what? Life is not a zero-sum game.

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