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Louisa Hunt - April 25, 2018
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Germaine Greer sparks controversy in Brighton

Content warning: article quotes transphobic views.

Controversy sparked over an International Women’s Day talk at Brighton Dome by divisive feminist figure Germaine Greer.

Several petitions were launched, urging organisers to cancel the event, which was part of a series to honour International Women’s Day on March 8.

One Brighton resident, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “She [Greer] is inciting hatred and discrimination of some of the most vulnerable people in society…  [Greer’s] views on Trans people completely undo and contradict her work on women’s rights!”.

One online petition asked for the event to be cancelled. The petition was started by Fox Fisher and “Owl”. Fisher, co-founder of “My Genderation”, studied at Brighton University.

The petition garnered nearly 17,000 signatures. It claims that “Greer incites hate speech and violence against trans people with her words and giving her a platform at such an event is an insult to all trans people.”.

In a vlog (video blog) Fisher estimated that signatories to the petition “would fill the Dome almost thirty times over”. The venue seats 1,700.

Radical feminist Germaine Greer rose to prominence in the 1970s with the publication of “The Female Eunuch” and made a career analysing oppression of women within the family. 

Greer has since expressed transphobic views, claiming that only people born biologically female can claim the name “woman”.

“I’m not saying that people should not be allowed to go through that procedure [gender reassignment], what I’m saying is that it doesn’t make them a woman”, she said during a 2015 BBC Newsnight interview.

Greer has also been quoted in The Independent saying: “Just because you lop off your d**k and then wear a dress doesn’t make you a ******* woman. I’ve asked my doctor to give me long ears and liver spots and I’m going to wear a brown coat but that won’t turn me into a ******* cocker spaniel.

“I do understand that some people are born intersex and they deserve support in coming to terms with their gender but it’s not the same thing.”

According to B Journal, the Chief Executive of Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival said: “We understand the concerns that people have raised about statements Greer has made on transgender issues. 

“Whilst we in no way endorse these views, we are committed to providing a platform for a whole breadth of opinion, debate and discussion”.

Brighton residents have mixed views; some say Greer has a right to talk and should not be silenced on the basis of her comments, others believe she is inciting hatred.

One Brighton resident, Lucy Cage, was opposed to the talk: “Personally I think [Greer] shouldn’t have been invited to speak at [International Women’s Day] in Brighton; her views are reactionary and damaging to members of our community … There are better, less offensive, more humane speakers that could’ve been asked to speak”.

Another resident, Tim Read, agreed: “I mostly vehemently defend freedom of speech and yet I struggle to accept views that… cause such harm… I believe it is the right of the oppressed person or group to identify their own oppression rather than someone that sits outside of it… I also feel deeply saddened that the experience of trans people is reduced to it somehow being about genitals I fear it misses so much.”

“I believe it is the right of the oppressed person or group to identify their own oppression rather than someone that sits outside of it… I also feel deeply saddened that the experience of trans people is reduced to it somehow being about genitals I fear it misses so much.”

“I also feel deeply saddened that the experience of trans people is reduced to it somehow being about genitals I fear it misses so much.”

Anna Mills, like several other residents, believed Greer should be allowed to speak: “I am shocked at the move to ban Greer – when you look at her take on transgender issues it is far more nuanced than she is given credit for by those who wish to silence her ”

A “counter-event” was held at the Dome, entitled “Trans Women Exist – This is Not a debate”. The free performance, held by Emma Frankland, involved 45 minutes of silence.

This is not the first time Greer’s talks have sparked controversy. One talk at Cardiff University entitled “Women & Power: The Lessons of the 20th Century”, went ahead in 2016, despite several petitions urging the university to cancel.

One such petition was started by Rachael Melhuish, then women’s officer at the University of Cardiff Students’ Union. A counter- petition was also launched, which urged Cardiff University to continue with the talk. Both petitions had around 3,000 supporters each.

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