A few months ago I was deplatformed from speaking at Oregon State University. The professors who deplatformed me said that it was because my speaking at the University could “hurt the feelings” of the students who identify as transgender. This is because I do not believe that women—including those who have been sexually assaulted by men—should be forced to share their most vulnerable spaces with men. I do not believe that women should be forced to bathe, sleep, gather, or organize with men unless they choose to do so. For this I was deplatformed.
I wrote a response to the two professors who deplatformed me, which included a series of non-rhetorical questions. The professors didn’t do me the courtesy of letting me know they received the note, much less answer any of the questions. So I am going public with a slightly edited version of these questions, and more broadly my response to the deplatforming. Because the behavior of the individual professors is not the point of this note, however much this behavior may go against the sort of robust public discourse that universities and liberals both pretend to support, I have removed identifiable references to them. The point of this note is to move us toward stopping this New McCarthyism.
I am profoundly disappointed that you deplatformed me, and I am equally profoundly disappointed in the reason.
Here is my response to the deplatforming. It is long, and it is direct, because I am attempting to be extremely clear, and because very clearly you have been given a lot of misinformation both about me and about what positions I support. I hope, given that you respect my work enough that you invited me to speak, and given that you did me the dishonor of deplatforming me, that you will do me the courtesy of reading this.
I have written more than 5 million words in more than 20 books, and never once in any of those millions of words did I discuss the issues for which you deplatformed me. I have also written scores of thousands more words in dozens of articles, and out of all those words and articles I have written or co-written precisely two articles that address transgender issues. The first of these articles was written in direct response to rape and death threats made by transgender activists against women and against myself, and the second was written in response to some generally dishonest rhetoric.
You deplatformed me because you say I disrespect those who identify as transgender. You are both scholars, both at a major university. I respectfully ask both of you to find any place in any of my books or articles where I have disrespected those who identify as transgender, where I have committed the sort of hate speech that would cause one to be deplatformed from a university committed to open discourse and discussing the most difficult issues of our time. This is not a rhetorical request. Please do look, and see what you will find. And let’s be clear: I mean disrespect, not disagreement. I would hope that when speaking to two scholars at an institution of higher education I would not have to detail the difference between disrespect and disagreement. Generally, unless participating in some form of fundamentalism, people understand that disagreement does not equal disrespect. The understanding that disagreement does not equal disrespect is in fact a necessary part of living in a pluralistic society. That understanding should be central to any institution of higher education. Sadly it is not central, and is becoming less central by the day.
There’s a history you need to know. Here is the real beef that (some of) those who identify as transgender have with me (there are those who identify as transgender who agree with my positions). I’m a founding member of an organization called Deep Green Resistance. Given that gold standard studies show that 25 percent of all women in this culture are raped within their lifetimes, and another 19 percent fend off rape attempts, and given that many members of this organization have themselves been sexually assaulted, and given that the overwhelming majority of sexual assaults are committed by males, the women of this organization decided that when we have conferences, they wanted for their sleeping and bathing spaces to be for females only. That’s it. That’s the beef of those who identify as transgender and their allies. The issue was not mentioned in the book of that same name. This was the sole issue: are women allowed to bathe and sleep and organize and gather free from males?
I of course agree with them. Given that we live in the midst of a rape culture, where at the very least a significant minority of women have had males attempt to sexually assault them, I don’t understand why any group of women should be forced–against their will–to allow males into their most vulnerable spaces.
Before we continue, I have a question: would you be willing to state publicly that you believe that women, including those who have been sexually assaulted by males, do not have the right to shower, bathe, sleep, or organize free from the presence of males? Is that a position you are willing to go on the record as having? Because that is precisely what trans activists have demanded of me, and the outcry against me is because I refuse to do that. I am being blacklisted for refusing to agree with that position, for refusing to force women to share those spaces.
On the other hand, would you be willing to state publicly that you believe that women, including those who have been sexually assaulted by males, do have the right to shower, bathe, sleep, or organize free from the presence of males? If you are willing to say that in public, you may very well be the recipient of death threats, harassment, and blacklisting.
As a result of this stated belief that women have the right to bathe, sleep, organize, or gather free from males, trans activists and their allies have threatened to rape these very same women. They have threatened to kill these women. They have threatened to kill me. They have threatened to behead all of us. They have threatened to kill the children of these women. I’m not exaggerating. Please read all of that again. They have put photoshopped pictures of me on the internet simulating bestiality (because of my work to defend salmon, they call me a “salmon fucker” and create pictures purporting to show me violating salmon). They have put photoshopped pictures of these women on the internet simulating pornography. They have told vicious and completely nonsensical lies about us (such as that we inspect people’s genitals, or that we burn effigies of trans people, or that we deny those who identify as trans surgery (which is especially odd since none of us are medical professionals), and so on) which are repeated ad nauseum as part of a long-term smear campaign. I don’t understand how rape and death threats by males against women who advocate for women’s only spaces do not count as convincing evidence for the need for women’s only spaces.
Do you know what the acronym DIAF stands for? I didn’t, until I was introduced to it by trans activists and their allies. It is a common acronym they hurl at women who advocate for women’s only spaces. It stands for “Die in a fire.”
I can provide citations for all of this.
You mentioned Lierre Keith (more on her later). Was part of your decision based on articles in the Earth First! Journal and other publications that came out when she was at PIELC? If so, you need to know that you based your decision on complete fabrications, part of the smear campaign I mentioned before. Once again, that’s not a rhetorical question. Please do answer it.
Though obviously on a much smaller scale, the smear campaign used tactics similar to those used in Dick Cheney’s campaign prior to his invasion of Iraq, where he planted stories in The New York Times, then referred to these stories as proof of his claims. Likewise in this case one person would make some completely false claim about us, then someone else would repeat this as a fact and add a new false claim to the top. And so on.
There’s a huge overlap between the anarchist and transgender communities. Many anarchists have hated me for years, primarily because I don’t agree with them on every single issue. For example, some have attacked me because I believe in laws against rape (and no, I’m not making this up). Here’s an example of how the smear campaigns work. Several years ago I was discovered by Glenn Beck’s fans, and within a couple of weeks received a few hundred extremely detailed death threats from right wingers, giving information about what they would do to me (e.g., castration, followed by beating and murder), my schedule, my address, and so on. I bought bars for my windows and doors, and bought a gun. Also, based on the advice of an attorney, I contacted the FBI and the police. I did not believe the FBI or police would protect me, but I wanted to make sure that if I had to use the gun to defend myself, there would be a record that I had feared for my life. Instead of expressing normal human concern for my safety, many anarchists exploded with indignation because I had called the police. That’s strange enough, but here’s the point: within a few months anarchists had moved from saying I called the cops to saying that I “snitched out comrades” to saying “everyone knows that he has worked for the FBI for years” to saying, “The FBI wrote his books, everyone knows that.” This is now accepted as gospel among some sets of anarchists.
The reason I bring this up is that the same thing happened here. Once it is said it is taken as gospel. But none of it is true.
So you need to know that if you based your deplatforming on those articles, you based it on lies and an intentional smear campaign.
No one in DGR has ever threatened anyone in any way. No one in DGR polices how others live or organize or dress. Our only “sin” is that we believe that women are an oppressed class, and we understand that we live in the midst of a rape culture, and that women need spaces free from male presence. Is that so wrong? And is this belief so wrong that we don’t even get to discuss it? And is this belief so wrong that anyone who believes it cannot talk about subjects that have nothing to do with it, such as the murder of the planet? Is that how impoverished and circumscribed our discourse has become? And do you want to be agents of that impoverishment?
Given the lies that have been told about us, I want to go on about this a bit longer, so I’m really clear about the position we do take (which was once again not what I was going to discuss). A while back someone wrote to me about a little boy whom she said “loves to play like a girl, dress in girls’ clothes, sing like a girl, and so on,” suggesting that his behavior is evidence that the boy is transgender, that he is a girl in a male body. But our analysis would be that we should embrace and accept this child’s behavior as simply who he is. The notion that the little boy was “acting like a girl” is what we believe we need to move past, since that’s based on stereotypes created by patriarchy: men are hard and cold and soldiers, and those who do to; and women are soft and inviting and submissive, and those to whom it is done. So our analysis would be that we should say this kid is free to act how he wants in this way, and he’s acting like himself. He can sing however he wants. He can play with dolls. He can dress however he wants. We should embrace and love him precisely how he is. I believe there is absolutely nothing wrong with a little boy who likes frilly clothes and who wants to play with dolls. I just don’t believe that makes him a girl. I believe it makes him a little boy who likes frilly clothes and who wants to play with dolls, and who should be loved and unconditionally accepted precisely as he is. Once again, is that so wrong to simply love and unconditionally accept him as he is? For that belief I am being deplatformed. Really?
The real point here is that at worst, we have a difference of opinion with the postmodernists/anarchists/trans activists, and as a consequence of this difference of opinion, postmodernists/anarchists/trans activists have used physical attacks, lies, threats (including rape and murder), attempts at sexual humiliation, calls for removal from bookstores, and so on. And of course deplatforming.
To be even more clear: Neither I nor anyone in DGR has ever threatened anyone who identifies as trans. We’ve never suggested any harm in any way happen to anyone who identifies as trans. We believe that those who identify as trans deserve protection from those who would assault them (just as women deserve protection from those who would assault them). Universal human rights are universal human rights. Yet because I believe that women are a class, and not an identity or a feeling, I am accused of being “disrespectful” and of “hurting their feelings.”
For this I have been blacklisted.
I’m not alone. All over the world women and their male allies routinely get blacklisted and much worse over this issue. An entire conference in the UK had to be canceled after death and rape threats against the owners of the venue–who were bystanders in this: they merely owned the venue–because one of the presenters believes that women should be allowed to have their own spaces. This epidemic of blacklisting has gotten bad enough that in Europe a group of scholars publicly called for an end to the blacklisting. Predictably, for doing this many were deluged with death threats and calls for removal from their positions. Some of them backed down in the face of this. Which of course was the point of the death threats and calls for removal in the first place.
And I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but deplatforming and blacklisting are, to use the word of an organization that tracks the erosion of academic freedom through the increased use of blacklisting, “exploding.” (My agent says the same thing, noting that the academic left has assumed a “circular firing squad” mentality.) Interestingly, the same week you deplatformed me, The Onion put out a satirical piece on this epidemic of deplatforming/blacklisting. Pulitzer Prize winner Chris Hedges was recently deplatformed because he speaks out against prostitution. Only outcry by women forced the college to reinstate him, after which the original deplatformer resigned from the committee in protest. Writer and activist Gail Dines was recently deplatformed because she speaks out against pornography.
And of course, to bring this back to the current deplatforming, any woman or man anywhere in the US, Canada, or the UK who says that women should be allowed to bathe, sleep, or organize free of biological males–no matter how peripheral this statement is to his or her primary work–is in extreme danger of being deplatformed (and in danger of receiving a slew of death threats, and if female, rape threats). As we see.
It doesn’t matter that I wasn’t going to talk about their issues at all. It doesn’t matter that I wanted to talk about the murder of the planet. Because I believe that women should not be forced, without their consent, to accept biological males into their most vulnerable spaces, I shall not be allowed to talk.
For me, being a writer involves being courageous, and telling the truth, and defending free and open discourse with my every breath. I don’t understand how anyone, especially in institutions that are supposed to be about higher education, could be any other way.
Now I would like to respond in specific to some of your comments in your note of deplatforming.
You wrote: “However, your views on transgendered people is a problem for us.”
My response: I’m honestly curious. Which views? Here’s a list of my views on the subject. Precisely which of these views would you like to go on record as being problems for you?
First: Do you have a problem with my belief that women, including those who have been sexually assaulted by males, should not be forced to share their most vulnerable spaces with males? Will you go on record as saying that this perspective is a problem for you? Will you go on record as males who say this?
Or on the other hand: do you feel that women, including those who have been sexually assaulted by males, should be forced to share vulnerable spaces with males? Will you go on record as supporting this position? Will you go on record as males who say this?
Or is the problem my belief that organizations consisting of members of any oppressed or disadvantaged class get to exclude those who are not in their particular oppressed or disadvantaged class, such that an organization of African-Americans could choose to exclude me, and the same would be true of an organization of homosexuals? Or of lesbians? Or of Mexican-Americans? Or of the visually impaired? Or of those diagnosed with mental or emotional disorders (of which I have PTSD)? Or of cancer survivors? Is that view a problem for you? How has it become that every oppressed or disadvantaged class except women gets to do this?
I believe that if we drop off the oppression or disadvantage, that the principle generally (but not always) holds. I believe it would be acceptable for a pipefitters union to exclude me because I’m not a pipefitter. I believe it would be acceptable for an organization of military veterans to exclude me because I’m not a military veteran. I believe it is acceptable for the Baseball Hall of Fame to exclude me, because I am not a Baseball Hall of Famer. Is that perspective a problem for you?
Or is the problem that I believe that females are allowed to have boundaries? Do you believe females are the one group not allowed to have boundaries?
Or is the problem my belief that if a little boy likes to wear frilly clothes and play with dolls that we should love and unconditionally accept this little boy for precisely who he is? Is that perspective a problem for you? Is the problem my belief that a little boy who likes to wear frilly clothes and play with dolls is simply a little boy who likes to wear frilly clothes and play with dolls? Is that perspective a problem for you? Are you suggesting that only little girls are allowed to like to wear frilly clothes and play with dolls? Boys aren’t allowed to unless they are really little girls inside? Is that what you are suggesting?
Or is the problem my belief that the word woman refers to a category of people with a set of definable metrics, and is not a self-definition, an identity, or a feeling? Because of the (as we see) rigidly enforced hegemony of postmodern thought in the Academy–where those who reject a postmodern ideology can be threatened with rape and murder, after which they are portrayed as a bigot, then deplatformed, all of which is aimed toward intimidating into silence anyone who disagrees with that postmodern ideology–Academia has a hard time with this one these days; but I presume that since we’re all scholars we all understand that any self-definition with no specific metric is no definition at all, right? Think about it: If I self-define as a vegetarian even though I had steak for dinner last night and curry chicken tonight, we would all recognize that if we allow my self-definition to stand then we have together destroyed not only the meaning of the word vegetarian but the meaning of the word definition, right? Any self-definition requires some other specific metric in order to not make meaningless the word being used in the self-definition. So is my perspective that we require a set of specific metrics for the category woman a problem for you? Would you like to go public with the statement that I was deplatformed because I believe we need a set of specific metrics before we call someone a woman?
Or is the problem that the metric I choose to use is literally the dictionary definition, that a woman is “an adult female human being”? Is that perspective a problem for you? And if so, is the fact that I use the dictionary definition of woman and biological metrics for defining female enough of a problem that you deplatform me? Really? Would you deplatform Mr. Merriam, Mr. Webster, and Mr. Linnaeus as well? Do you want to go public as saying that I was deplatformed for using the dictionary definitions of woman and female? It’s fine to have a problem with a dictionary definition of a word (as I do with the word civilization) but it is then incumbent upon those who don’t like the dictionary definition to come up with a non-tautological definition that is completely defensible, and to defend it, not simply insult, threaten, deplatform, and generally bully into silence those who don’t adhere to the new definition. If you’re going to deplatform me for using the dictionary definitions of woman and female what are your defensible, non-tautological definitions that are so much better than Merriam-Webster’s that they’re worth deplatforming me over? And are you willing to go public with the fact that you deplatformed me over these definitions?
Or is the problem that I don’t believe that tautological definitions count as real definitions? To be clear, defining a woman as “someone who identifies as a woman” is tautological. The same is true for defining a woman as “someone who feels like a woman.” The same is true for defining a woman as “someone who dresses like a woman,” or who “walks like a woman,” or “performs as a woman,” and so on. The same would be true for defining a military veteran as someone who identifies as a military veteran. To serve their function, which is to provide clarity and information, definitions need to be non-tautological: they need to have specific metrics that are not self-referential. Is the problem that I don’t think that tautological definitions count as real definitions?
Or is it that I think that a penis is a male organ (transgender convention these days requires that we speak of “her penis” (sometimes called “her ladystick”) or “her scrotum,” and that we not speak of abortion or menstruation as women’s concerns, and no, I’m not making any of that up)? Is the fact that I believe that a penis is a male organ and a uterus is a female organ a problem for you? Is that why I’m being deplatformed? Am I being deplatformed because I believe in physical and biological reality? Do you want to go on record as having deplatformed me for saying that a penis is a male organ and a uterus is a female organ? Is that how absurd postmodern discourse has become?
One of the terrible problems with postmodernism is its fundamental ungroundedness. Postmodernism can in this case lead not only to such absurdities as “her penis” but to the political and philosophical erasure of women. Just today I read this not atypical quote, “Is there really any such thing as female oppression because I feel like every example of ‘female oppression’ comes off as cissexist. I.e., abortion legislation since women aren’t the only ones who get abortions. The idea of female oppression seems like bullshit to me.” Is the problem that I can’t agree with statements like this? Really?
I honestly don’t understand.
You wrote: “We knew of some issues related to this (e.g., a controversy surrounding Lierre Keith’s visit to the Univ of Oregon last year).
Response: You didn’t invite Lierre Keith. You invited me. And Lierre Keith (and anyone remotely associated with her) was subject to death threats, rape threats, and the sort of smear campaign I mentioned. They raised a mob, one of whom spat in the face of a member of her volunteer security team.
But, and here’s the first point, her talk was on how agriculture is inherently destructive, and leads to overshoot and militarism, and was the beginnings of global warming. Like in the current circumstance, she wasn’t even going to speak on their issue. She was talking about environmental issues. The concern on the part of the postmodernists/anarchists/trans activists was not what she was going to say, but her mere existence.
The second point is that after the relatively few protesters stood up and left early, a big crowd remained. When she was done they gave her a lengthy standing ovation. The overwhelming majority of people loved her talk. People wanted to hear her. I can provide a link to her talk if you would like, and you can see that it had nothing whatsoever to do with trans issues, and that it was loved. Yet simply because she believes that women should be allowed to bathe free from the presence of males, those who identify as trans (and their allies) attempted to silence her, to deprive everyone else of the chance to hear her. The same is happening here.
The third point is that the threats and lies were not able to stop her, but your mere mention of her here makes clear that the threats and lies ultimately have had their desired effect, because you are deplatforming me. That was the point of the threats and harassment. The point of the threats and harassment wasn’t for last time: it was to scare people off this next time, to make sure we all stay in line. I’m sorry, but I think it’s outrageous to give in to those attempts to silence discourse, especially when the silencing is manufactured surrounding something that has nothing to do with my work.
You wrote: “Honestly, we had not been tracking this issue closely. We realize that the issue is a small blip in the entirety of your body of work.”
My response: Approximately 7000 words out of probably 5 million published, or .14 percent, or only 14 words out of every ten thousand (I can guarantee I use swear words more often than that), and even those written only after I began receiving death threats. It’s less than a blip. It would be like disagreeing with eleven words out of this entire missive I’m sending you. And that “blip” is not disrespectful, but simple disagreement. Why am I not allowed to disagree with an ideology? When did slavish agreement with the philosophers Michel Foucault and Judith Butler become a precondition not only for speaking at a university, but for even being considered to be respectful?
You wrote: “But it is a big deal here at OSU, where unconditional acceptance and respect for everyone is a value, and for us this includes transgendered people.”
My response: You are both scholars. Please name one place in any of my books or the two published essays I mentioned where I disrespect those who identify as trans. Once again, not disagree, but disrespect. Once again, this is not rhetorical. Disagreement is not disrespect.
I think part of the problem is that a terrible rhetorical coup has taken place in Academia, and that in this case we seem to be confusing “unconditional acceptance” with “adherence to an ideology” and “disrespect” with “political disagreement.” That is a rhetorical coup because it makes discourse impossible. Those who perpetuate or support this confusion have made it–and you are going along with this–impossible to talk about the subject (or, clearly, any subject, including the murder of the planet), because any disagreement on that particular subject is immediately labeled as a lack of acceptance and as disrespect (and the person who disagreed is deluged with rape and death threats, and blacklisting: the irony of the recipient of these threats and blacklisting then being accused of a lack of acceptance and of disrespect does not escape me). As someone to whom honest discourse is as vital as my own heart, I cannot tell you how much I resent the manipulation of discourse such that mere disagreement with an ideology–any ideology—is silenced as disrespect.
Further, what do you mean by “unconditional acceptance”? Can someone skip every class and do no homework without you flunking them? Do you have to unconditionally accept them and pass them? Or can you unconditionally accept them as human beings but still have a specific metric for whether you allow them to pass the class? Can someone attend school without either having a scholarship or paying tuition? Or would they eventually be removed from campus? Is there a metric for whether the school allows someone to take classes and to be called a student? Can everyone be on the basketball team? Or can some students be unconditionally accepted by everyone involved but still be excluded from the basketball team, and not be called members of the varsity basketball team? Can anyone attend graduation and walk across the stage and receive a diploma, or are there some metrics in place such that some people are unconditionally accepted by everyone involved but are excluded from receiving a diploma and being called graduates? Are military veterans allowed to organize with others who share their experience, or can anyone join every one of their organizations? Can military veterans (or African-Americans, or American Indians, or Mexican-Americans, or for that matter physics majors or members of a sorority) unconditionally accept other students as human beings but not allow them into their organizations, or more to the point, their most intimate spaces? And as for yourself, if a student wanted to shower with you, would you have to accept that, else you’d be risking failing to unconditionally accept that student? Or are you allowed to have boundaries? Likewise would a student be forced to shower with you? Or is the student allowed to have that boundary? Why can I not unconditionally accept those males who identify as trans, yet not wish for them to be allowed to shower with women who don’t want to shower with them? Everyone else is allowed to define boundaries: why are these women the only ones who can’t say no? I don’t understand why believing that women are allowed to have boundaries says anything about whether I do or don’t accept people. Please see my previous paragraph.
I believe that those who identify as trans are individuals who have value to themselves and to society, and I accept that they identify as trans. I simply disagree that a male who identifies as trans is in fact a female. That’s it. I’m not suggesting anything bad happen to any male (or female) who identifies as trans. I’m not suggesting they are terrible people. I’m not suggesting they be put into re-education camps (which is another absurd accusation that has been thrown at us: that we wish to put those who identify as trans into re-education camps run by lesbians, and no, I’m not making that up either). I’m not suggesting they can’t dress however they want or that they be fired from their jobs. I’m not suggesting they receive less money for doing the same work. I’m not insisting they agree with my (or any) ideology. And more to the current point, I would not attempt to interfere with their ability to make a living, nor would I ever attempt to deplatform them simply because I disagree with them. I certainly would never threaten to rape or kill them. I wish we could say the same the other way.
I don’t agree with their ideology. So what? Is it only a postmodern ideology that can’t be disagreed with; or does this mean Richard Dawkins would not be allowed to speak because he doesn’t agree with Christians? Does this mean a Christian would not be allowed to speak because she doesn’t agree with atheists? Or is it only the postmodernists who are allowed this enforced ideological hegemony?
Okay, let’s be clear: I don’t believe that males who identify as trans should be allowed into women’s locker rooms without women’s permission. If the males who identify as trans are afraid to shower with other males for fear they will be sexually assaulted by other males, by all means they can have their own showers, but I find it stunning and appalling that the same people who see the necessity for protecting these particular males from sexual assault by males have no problem exposing women to these same fears by forcing them to share vulnerable spaces with males. So a simple solution: make third showers. Just don’t throw women under the bus. But for refusing to ignore when women say no, I am, according to you, disrespecting those who identify as trans.
Let’s not forget the disrespect shown to women by insisting they shower with males, even if they have previously been sexually assaulted by males. Let’s not forget the fact that women in the US and UK struggled hard for decades in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries for the right to segregated restrooms in order to be able to experience a more robust and less terrorized public life (because it greatly reduced the risk of sexual assault in public restrooms). And let’s not forget the fact that at this moment girls and women in many parts of India are struggling for these very same rights that in the U.S. are being eroded: they want segregated public restrooms because that will enable them to attend school. Read that sentence again: girls are afraid to go to school for fear they will be raped when they go to the bathroom. And you deplatform me for alleged “disrespect.”
Honestly, Richard Dawkins is ideologically denying something far more precious to Christians than I am to those who identify as trans, in that he doesn’t believe anyone is going to heaven, because heaven doesn’t exist. So would you deplatform Richard Dawkins?
Further, I disagree with 90 percent of what is taught in the Department of Forestry and 90 percent of what is taught in the business programs. Should I be deplatformed for that?
Once again, a horrible rhetorical coup has been pulled off, in that disagreement has been conflated with disrespect. That’s no way to run a university. As one whose life is dedicated to the integrity of discourse, I am horrified that so many otherwise intelligent people accept this outrageous conflation.
And further, who spat in whose face? Who made rape and death threats? The reversal here is absolutely extraordinary. Someone spat in the face of one of those who was there specifically to protect Lierre Keith from those who had made death and rape threats against her, and now I am deplatformed because somehow I don’t accept or respect someone? All of this is completely Orwellian.
You wrote: “We are uncomfortable sponsoring a speaker who denies the experience of this group; and we are uncomfortable in sponsoring a speaker whose presence will or may hurt the feelings of these individuals.”
My response: This is the sentence that really got me. First, what about the experience of all of those women of the world who do not want to be forced to shower with males? Aren’t you denying their experiences and feelings when you say that anyone who believes women should not be forced to bathe in the presence of males shall not speak at your university? As usual, women get thrown under the bus. That’s outrageous. Why don’t women’s experiences count in this discussion? Why don’t women’s experiences count in so many discussions in this culture? To this latter, at least, we know the answer.
And what about the feelings of the people who would like to hear me speak? Do their feelings count for nothing? People routinely come from hundreds of miles to hear my talks. People have come from as far away as China and India just to hear me talk.
Second, I disagree with their perspective. There’s a difference between disagreeing with someone’s perspective and denying their experience. And even if I did deny their experience, so what? We all have different experiences of living in the world, and these experiences come into conflict all the time in ways large and small. That’s just part of life, and no one is exempt from it. I experience the world as full of shining and varied sentiences, and I identify as an animist. Mechanistic scientists, meanwhile experience the world as a giant clockwork. They would and routinely do deny my experience, deny the validity of my identification, and disagree with my perspective. And I do the same to them. So what? Are you going to deplatform every mechanistic scientist to protect my feelings? Are you going to deplatform me to protect their feelings? No. You let us speak. You have debates, discussions, ideas in conflict. And that helps teach people critical thinking, which was, at least in my experience, once upon a time part of the purpose of institutions of higher education. All of that is how discourse evolves. That’s what happens when you live in a pluralistic society. Heck, it’s what happens when you live in a world with other beings who have their own experiences. Richard Dawkins denies that those Christians who think they have felt the Holy Spirit have in fact felt the Holy Spirit. (I say all this, by the way, as someone who can’t stand Richard Dawkins, but certainly wouldn’t deplatform him.) Humans can convince themselves of almost anything (like you can destroy a planet and still live on it, like capitalism can be sustainable) which means that only allowing discourse that doesn’t “deny” someone or another’s experience leads to the death of meaningful discourse. And it’s harmful in other ways, too: I mean, many of those with anorexia experience themselves as being “fat,” though they are skin and bones. Would you deplatform those who “denied the experience” of these anorexics by disagreeing that they are “fat”? We all have different experiences, some of which match reality, and some of which do not. And even those that do more or less match reality often don’t match up with the experiences of others. It’s absurd to posit “denying” someone’s experience as an evil in itself. There are a lot of capitalists whose experience is that capitalism is wonderful, and that the US really does export freedom and democracy to the world. I disagree with their perspective. Is no one allowed to disagree with anyone, or is it only this particular group with whom no one may disagree? That’s once again not a rhetorical question.
And maybe that’s the point. Maybe I was emphasizing the wrong part of that phrase, and the point isn’t that I was deplatformed because in your perspective I “deny the experience of this group,” but that I was deplatformed because in your perspective I “deny the experience of this group.” But why this group in particular? Why does their experience outweigh that of women worldwide? Why does their experience outweigh non-tautological definitions? Why is it okay to “deny the experience” of essentially every other group, but not this one? Why is that worth deplatforming me over, especially when I wasn’t going to talk about their issues? Why can we not have open discussions? Why is women’s space so threatening to discourse? Why is “denying the experience” of this particular group so heinous I need to be deplatformed, yet the routine “denial of experience” of women who do not wish to be forced to share their most intimate spaces with males, including those women who have been sexually assaulted by males, not even worth mentioning? These are not rhetorical questions.
Third, I’d like to highlight the fact that you explicitly said I’m getting deplatformed because I may hurt some people’s feelings. Really? Did you just say that? Do you see what’s wrong with this? You teach at a university, not a day care center. My recollection of the universities I have attended or taught at is that a primary purpose was to foster critical thinking and exploration of vital issues of the day, not to protect students from anything that might “hurt their feelings” or “deny their experience.” The purpose was to help them become functioning adults in a pluralistic society. Clearly, that’s gone by the boards. And I wasn’t even going to talk about them, which means it would be my very presence, my very existence, that would hurt their feelings. Do we all see what is very wrong with basing campus and regional discourse on whether someone’s feelings will be hurt, and worse, the “hurt feelings” that may come will not even be based on what this person is actually going to talk about? What does it mean to our society and to discourse that one group of people–any group of people–is allowed to hold campus and regional discourse hostage over the fact that their feelings may be hurt? It is that rhetorical coup I talked about: if no one is allowed to disagree with them for fear their feelings will be hurt, then there can be no reasonable discourse. And if the purpose of a college lecture series is to make sure that no one’s feelings will be hurt, there can be no speakers. Allowing any group to hold discourse hostage to their feelings is the death knell for pluralistic society.
I have critiqued science, which has hurt the feelings of some scientists, and capitalism, which hurts the feelings of some capitalists, and mainstream environmentalism, which hurts the feelings of some environmentalists, and pacifism, which hurts the feelings of some pacifists, and nobody seems to care. But on this issue, about which I never wrote till the rape and death threats started. . . .
And fourth, what about the feelings of the women whose feelings of safety are being completely ignored in this whole discussion? Given that 25 percent of all women in this culture are raped in their lifetimes, and given that another 19 percent have to fend off rape attempts, why are their very real feelings of fear being ignored? Why do they not matter? How do you justify that? This is not a rhetorical question, and it is a question I have never seen reasonably answered by any supporter of a trans ideology. The best I can hope for when asking this question is to be ignored. More likely it leads to death threats. Or deplatforming.
And let’s say we disagree on every point having to do with this issue. What’s wrong with that? Why is this the one issue about which disagreement is not allowed (even if you may agree with 99.86 percent of what I have written)? (As a side note, I don’t even agree with every single thing I have written.) Why must women (some men, but primarily women), be deplatformed across the US, Canada, and the UK simply for saying that women should be allowed to bathe (and organize) free from the presence of males?
If you have any interest, I can provide an unfortunately far-too-long list of biological males who, under Oregon law, could have legally used women’s spaces, who have raped, murdered, and/or dismembered women. Once again, please read that sentence again. Of course I’m not saying that every male or even the majority of males who identify as trans is a rapist or murderer, any more than I’m saying that every male who doesn’t identify as trans is a rapist or murderer (study after study has shown that the rates of violent crime by males who do or don’t identify as trans are essentially identical). I’m merely saying that women’s fear is justified, and I can provide the names and details to back that up. I’m sorry that these fears do not affect either public policy or, evidently, public discourse.
You wrote: “Already, after sharing your visit with just a few of our stakeholders, we have received push-back to your visit. While we aimed for your visit to focus the campus on issues re. the environmental crisis, we suspect the transgender issue will be a distraction that we will have to spend considerable time addressing, explaining, reassuring, defending, whatever.”
My response: Thank you for being clear. What I take from the paragraph is that the campaign of threats and harassment that attempted to deplatform Lierre Keith last year did its job, in that it is better that we don’t talk about the murder of the planet than to have to deal with the hassle. Not only women and not only discourse in general but indeed the planet gets thrown under the bus.
This position is in some senses understandable. In no way am I being sarcastic. In the past couple of years those who identify as trans have tried very hard to make my life miserable, with the death threats, the threats of beheading, the lies, the blacklisting. They have gone after my publishers, and attempted to get my works removed from the publishers’ lists. They have gone after bookstores, and tried to get my books taken off the shelves. They have threatened to burn my books. Fortunately my publishers have stood firm, as have some though not all bookstores. So I understand not wanting to deal with the hassle. Heck, I don’t want to deal with the hassle. More times than I care to recall I have thought: “Okay, fine, do whatever you want. You can take over women’s spaces. You can shower in their locker rooms. You can take over their organizations. Just leave me alone and let me do my work.” I get so tired of it. But here’s the thing. My mother raised me right, to believe that women matter, and that women’s lives matter, and that women’s feelings matter. So no matter what it costs me I cannot in all conscience say that women do not have the right to bathe, shower, sleep, organize free of the presence of males. Me saying that is all it would take, and the harassment, the death threats, the blacklisting would stop. But I’m sorry, I cannot do it. If that makes me in your perspective a bigot, I guess there’s nothing much I can do about that.
And she also raised me right to believe that discourse matters, and truth and integrity matter, and she raised me to believe that the silencing of dissenting voices is central to the destruction of what is good in a pluralistic society, and that even if we disagree with someone, we should defend to the death their right to speak.
All of this is why I’m profoundly disappointed.Filed in Essays