On 6 August last, Tasmanian Times published an article titled ‘Silencing and Censorship in the Trans Rights Debate’ – see https://tasmaniantimes.com/2018/08/silencing-and-censorship-in-the-trans-rights-debate1-d1/.  The article featured five case studies that exemplified the dominant narrative in this debate – supportive of the trans rights agenda and dismissive of a women’s rights perspective.

One case study described a complaint against the UTas Women’s Collective and their online bullying of members who failed to fall into line with their policy of ‘centring’ the interests of trans and queer ‘woman identifying’ persons.  Several of those members were summarily dismissed from the Collective for their supposed transgressions.

The case study linked to an article published online in the University of Tasmania student magazine Togatus on 6 October 2015 titled ‘The UTas Women’s Collective: a new meaning for “inclusive”’ – http://www.togatus.com.au/utas-womens-collective-a-new-meaning-for-inclusive/

On 26 August 2018, the author of this article was advised by email that the article had been temporarily removed from the Togatus online edition pending an investigation into potentially defamatory content.

After several weeks of so-called ‘investigation’ and the procuring of legal advice, the UTas Student Media Committee advised the author that the article had been permanently removed.

Despite repeated attempts to discover what, exactly, was defamatory about the article, via communication with the editor of Togatus, April Cuison, the chair of the Tasmanian University Board, Sophie Muller and the office of the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Rufus Black, the author was met with trite platitudes and apologies for delay, but given NO substantive information.

It seems a ‘third party’ drew the attention of the Student Media Committee to the article, three years after it was first published but, coincidentally, only a few weeks after it was linked in Tasmanian Times.

The author can only conclude the article was censored as payback for publication of the case study in Tasmanian Times, for the following reasons –

  1. No individuals were named in the Togatus
  2. Everything written about the UTas Women’s Collective in the article is true, and fair comment on their activities. It is arguably in the public interest for details of those activities to be made available to students and other readers of Togatus.
  3. Even if the content was defamatory, which it was not, the law requires an action in defamation to be brought within 12 months of publication of any offending material. Three years after publication, there would be no danger of a defamation suit arising.
  4. The Student Media Policy requires that any issues with articles or other content in Togatus should be notified to the editor ‘in a timely manner, no more than ten business days or two weeks, whichever is the lesser, following the release of an edition of Togatus, or the posting of an online article or comment’.

Waiting three years to register a complaint hardly complies with this particular policy.

  1. An article similar in content and tone to the piece concerned, authored by the then Togatus digital editor, Jess Flint, titled ‘The UTas Women’s Collective: a safe space?’ was published on 29 July 2015. According to the legal advice obtained by the Student Media Committee, this article is not defamatory, and remains online at http://www.togatus.com.au/the-utas-womens-collective-a-safe-space/

Universities present themselves as forums for robust debate, but when it comes to trans rights, it seems no dissent from the politically correct position will be tolerated.  Those who argue against the favoured pro-trans ideology are shamelessly and vindictively silenced, with specious claims of defamation concerns, patently uninformed ‘legal advice’ and more buck passing than you’re ever likely to see, anywhere.

No-one wants to own this censorship – not the mysterious ‘third party’ who ‘brought the article up’ after three years, not the editor of Togatus, not the TUU board, and not the Vice-Chancellor.  All responsibility has been placed with the Student Media Committee, which the author is assured is comprised of ‘industry professionals’ – but who are THEY?

And, the censorship persists, based on a unilateral decision, with no consultation or information or proper advice offered to the author.

How is this good enough for a university?

Below is the text of the offending article, as published in Togatus

THE UTAS WOMEN’S COLLECTIVE – A NEW MEANING FOR ‘INCLUSIVE’? 

In six decades of life as a woman, I’ve seen countless expressions of patriarchy.  From the family favouritism shown to my brothers to the creeping social oblivion of female middle age.

I’ve worked and studied in the male dominated professions of accounting and law, and held my own.

I have espoused feminist values since my teenage years, and spent the later part of my working life advocating for, counselling and supporting women, particularly women suffering family violence.

I have always been aware of the prejudices and social injustices facing women, and spoken up accordingly.  And until now, I have been fortunate enough to escape any direct attack on my womanhood or my feminist ideas.

This year, I enrolled in a masters program at UTas and joined the UTas Women’s Collective, with the innocent, but apparently naïve, aim of meeting and engaging with other female students of a feminist bent.  And, for the first time, I have been subjected to overt ageist and sexist discrimination and abuse and denunciation of my feminist ideals, at the hands of other ‘woman identifying persons’.

After a rather unpleasant exchange on the group’s Facebook page, it became evident the Collective is not as inclusive as it claims.  It began when I noticed some disagreement between members about the group’s priorities, and made the mistake of asking why the needs and interests of transgender and queer Collective members were to be given preference.

The response was courteous enough to begin with, but I was soon being exhorted to ‘educate myself’ about the unreality of biological sex, or risk removal from the group.  I was lectured about the abhorrence that is ‘white female privilege’ and introduced to the jargon of the trans/queer movement.

Whilst conversing with me on the group’s closed Facebook page, two group members were at the same time laughing at me and insulting me on one of their personal pages.  The sort of thing ‘cool’ 12 year old cyber bullies do to the odd girl out in their peer group.  Only this time it was a couple of privileged, white, young women taking pot shots at an older woman – accusing her of being a TERF (trans exclusionary radical feminist – I had to look it up) and joking about being ‘nice’ to her, even though she ‘just (didn’t) get it’ and her ideas were totally repugnant to them.

After being told by yet another member that biological sex wasn’t real, and I was living in the past, I gave up on the conversation.

Since then, I note that one of the members who engaged in the Facebook insults was elected unopposed as the UTas South Women’s Officer.

The Collective’s Facebook page posts the occasional useful feminist article, but the overall transgender/queer bias is patently obvious.  Only those who agree with a ‘feminism’ that prioritises trans/queer interests are welcome.

I fully appreciate the emotional and social consequences gender identity issues must have for transgender and queer individuals, but I’m not prepared to cede my experience of femaleness to the overtly political agenda of some in those groups.   I am a woman, not a cis-woman.

And, seriously, when a Collective member has a bitch about their ‘queerness’ not being taken seriously enough because they’re ‘low femme’ and they have ‘a long-term cis man partner’ we know we’re truly in the realm of privileged, white, first world problems.

Thousands of women are out there right now – being underpaid, and exploited, and trafficked into sexual slavery, and raped and beaten and killed.  Most of them have XX chromosomes and bigger things to worry about than their gender identity.  If feminism has to be a game of priorities, I prefer to prioritise their struggles.

No doubt this article, if published, will see me banned from the Collective for breaching their ‘secret society’ rules.  And that might raise some interesting discrimination issues.