University of Melbourne academics have called for the removal of a colleague’s website inviting anonymous submissions of encounters with transgender women.
Earlier this week, lecturer Holly Lawford-Smith created the website, NoConflictTheySaid.org.
She wrote that the site is in response to birth certificate legislation around Australia benefiting trans people that “replaces sex with gender identity”.
The site called for women to anonymously contribute accounts of trans women “impacting their use of women-only spaces.”
“We’re worried about the impacts on women of men [sic] using women-only spaces,” the website reads.
“These include but not limited to: changing rooms, fitting rooms, bathrooms, shelters, rape and domestic violence refuges” and other areas.
Speaking to The Age, Lawford-Smith accused governments of ignoring purported negative impacts of the laws.
She said data is needed on “creepy things happening in women’s bathrooms or women’s changing rooms or rape support groups.”
However numerous University of Melbourne colleagues have denounced the website as transphobic and unethical.
Cultural studies lecturer Hannah McCann said the website promotes both harmful stereotypes and vilification of trans people.
She told The Age many of the published stories amount to little more than “fearmongering”.
“[I] was truly shocked that this could be something that exists in 2021,” she said.
“I’m dismayed, because it paints trans people as perpetrators of violence… There’s in fact a very long history of them being victims of it.”
University of Melbourne academics slam website
Over 100 academics have also signed an open letter titled “Stopping the promotion of transphobia at the University of Melbourne”.
The letter argues the website’s published accounts use “well-rehearsed transphobic ideology” and “promote the harmful stereotype of trans people as predatory”.
“We strongly question the ethics of this website,” the academics write.
“It appears ripe for promoting misinformation about trans people that may lead to further trans vilification.
“By deliberately framing trans women as a threat to cis women, the website demonstrates poor research ethics, contrary to the ethos of the university.
“It deliberately pushes a harmful ideology not supported by scholarship or ethical research practice.”
As Lawford-Smith is a lecturer, the academics are also concerned the website is breaching research integrity guidelines.
“[We’re] concerned that this content is being actively taught to students at the University and presented as ‘scholarly,’” they said.
“We support academic freedom. However, academic freedom does not mean the freedom to spread misinformation and incite hatred.
“Conflating the two only undermines this important principle of scholarship.”
Holly Lawford-Smith believes gender identity is a ‘recent cultural invention’
A University of Melbourne spokesperson said the university encourages academics “to engage in public debate. The views they express are personal, not those of the university.”
“The university is committed to principles of academic freedom of expression, and to fostering a diverse, respectful and inclusive community,” the spokesperson said.
Holly Lawford-Smith has previously sparked backlash and also protests at the university for her views rejecting transgender identities.
In 2019, Twitter suspended her account for violating rules against “hateful conduct”.
Last year, she penned an opinion piece for the Herald Sun criticising Victoria’s ban on conversion practices against trans people.
In it, she said she believes “gender identities are not unchangeable facts about persons like sexual orientations are; they are ideological.”
“Sexual orientation and gender identity are not alike,” she said.
“Gender identity is a recent cultural invention, providing an umbrella for a diverse range of people who have in common, at best, nonconformity with some gender stereotypes.”
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