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Trans allies pull out of University of Oxford feminist conference over ties with ‘clearly transphobic’ Woman’s Place UK

Vic Parsons March 3, 2020
womans place uk

Selina Todd, professor of modern history at Oxford University. (St Hilda's College)

British feminists stood in solidarity with the trans community and cancelled plans to speak at a feminist conference, citing its ties with the “transphobic” Woman’s Place UK (WPUK) group.

At least two speakers withdrew after learning that a “transphobic” academic who supports the “clearly transphobic” WPUK had been invited to speak at the conference, held at the prestigious University of Oxford last weekend.

The one-day event, organised by Oxford International Women’s Festival, had been due to open at the University of Oxford’s Exeter College on February 29 with a short thank-you speech by Selina Todd, an Oxford professor.

The day before, Todd, who teaches modern history at St Hilda’s College, was asked by organisers to give up her short slot over what they said were threats of a boycott from other speakers over her support for WPUK.

Trans-inclusive feminist and author Lola Olufemi pulled out of the event, saying that the organisers of the conference – which commemorated the 50th anniversary of the inaugural Women’s Liberation Conference, also held at the University of Oxford – had not done enough to investigate links between invited speakers and WPUK.

WPUK was recently branded a “trans-exclusionary hate group” by the Labour Campaign for Trans Rights.

Senior Labour politicians, including Lisa Nandy, Rebecca Long-Bailey, Dawn Butler and Emily Thornberry, have signed the Labour Campaign for Trans Rights pledges, which label WPUK a hate group and demand transphobes be expelled from the Labour Party.

Selina Todd has ‘refuted the allegation’ she is transphobic, whereas WPUK has also denied it is a hate group.

‘TERFs’ have ‘no place’ in feminism.

Lola Olufemi announced on February 28 via Twitter that she’d withdrawn from the one-day conference, held on February 29, because of “clear links with Women’s Place UK”.

“TERF [trans-exclusionary radical feminist] links cut across universities, women’s services and public institutions. They have no place in my vision or understanding of the political possibilities that feminism offers us,” Olufemi said on February 28.

In a statement read out by Laura Schwartz of Feminist Fightback at the University of Oxford panel on which she had been invited to speak, Olufemi added: “The reason I withdrew from this panel is because it’s clear the organisers had not done enough to investigate speakers’ links to Woman’s Place UK – a clearly transphobic organisation.

“Trans exclusionary radical feminist networks cut across universities, public institutions, and women’s services.

“I am uninterested in attending feminist events or conferences that do not take a clear stance against this attempt to hijack feminism or allow these networks to exist unchallenged.”

At least one other person who’d been invited to speak at the conference also pulled out upon learning that Todd was invited to speak.

Roseanne Chantiluke, one of the organising member of the Rhodes Must Fall Oxford movement, also withdrew and said “did the same – absolute solidarity”.

WPUK, which strongly denies it is a hate group or that it or its supporters are transphobic, was set up in 2017 to oppose reforms to the UK’s Gender Recognition Act.

GRA reform could make it easier for transgender people to update the gender on their birth certificate and could give access to legal gender recognition to non-binary trans people and 16- and 17-year-olds.

Selina Todd says ‘I am not transphobic’ after being uninvited over Woman’s Place UK support.

Selina Todd took to Twitter on February 28 to announce that she’d been asked by organisers not to speak.

Just been no-platformed from this event commemorating 50 yrs since Ruskin WLM [Women’s Liberation Movement] conference because of my connection w @Womans_Place_UK. My mum and dad met at Ruskin. My mum is a proud feminist. So am I. My first academic article was about the WLM,” Todd tweeted.

Todd, who was last year condemned as “transphobic” by her own students at St Hilda’s College, Oxford, told PinkNews: “I refute the allegation that I am transphobic.

“I am proud to be associated with Woman’s Place UK, which exists to ensure women’s voices are heard and is not transphobic.

“My own research focuses on women’s history and working class history. I am therefore aware that working class women played an important role in the struggle for same-sex spaces and I know of the long battle that lesbians had to self-organise.”

As a result of Todd being uninvited, the University of Oxford’s history faculty also withdrew from the event.

A University of Oxford spokesperson told PinkNews: “We cannot accept the exclusion of our respected colleague professor Selina Todd from the event, and that means that we withdrew from the weekend’s celebration.

“As an academic department, we simply cannot condone the no-platforming of people who hold and express lawful views. We believe it is always better to debate than to exclude: this seems to us a key principle of 1970, and we are sorry that the weekend’s event took a different path.”

WPUK said: “Professor Selina Todd is a highly respected feminist historian. We are a feminist group. Feminism is not hate. It wasn’t in 1970 and it isn’t now. Women’s liberationists are not going away. The sooner this is understood, the better.”

More: free speech, labour campaign trans rights, lola olufemi, selina todd, Woman's Place UK

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