Earlier this month in Wellington, New Zealand, 73-year-old feminist Germaine Greer was ‘glitterbombed’ by transgender activists who call themselves The Queer Avengers. The ‘retaliation’ was not for any current controversy, but for “an attempt to highlight Greer’s transphobia in the past“, which sounds more a vendetta than any form of genuine activism. Trans activists rarely ever make their case by outlining why they think they are right, they generally only target those (usually feminists) who speak out against them, calling them ‘transphobic’. A very thin political platform.
In Greer’s response to the incident (reprinted below in full), she states that the reason given for the ‘glitterbombing’ was her supposed outing and subsequent sacking of transwoman Dr Rachael Padman (formerly Russell Padman) from a woman-only college Newnham College, Cambridge. So not only was the ‘transphobia’ nothing to do with an event in New Zealand, the allegations against Greer were completely false – Greer did not out Padman (Padman had a half-page article in The Times*) and also, Padman is still teaching at Newnham College. So trans activists not only use a thin political platform, they use lies and attempt to re-write history – where have we seen that before? Oh yes, typical male supremacy.
*The original Times article does not seem to be available online, but the linked-to article in Times Higher Education (THE) refers to the front page article in The Times of June 1997.
Germaine Greer: glitter-bomb neither here nor there
26 March, 2012
Feminist academic Greer responds to being glitter-bombed in Wellington by protest group Queer Avengers.
There are some New Zealanders who are convinced I outed one of my colleagues at Newnham College as a transsexual, and that she lost her job as a result. This was the accusation levelled at me earlier this month when a group “glitter-bombed” me at a book signing in Wellington.
The colleague concerned is still at Newnham College; her name is Dr Rachael Padman. But from my perspective, it’s pretty clear that she was never “in”. I could only have “outed” her if she had deceived the principal and the council of Newnham College as to her legal status, a suggestion that would be defamatory of her.
Padman now says she thought that in 1996 the Fellows of Newnham were aware of her history, seeing as pretty well everyone else in Cambridge was. In fact they were not. The principal decided, anticipating perhaps the provisions of the Gender Reassignment Act, which would not be passed for another nine years, that the Fellows should not be told the new Fellow had spent years as a member of men-only St John’s College, where she was known as Russell Padman.
Some sources will tell you I opposed her election; there was no election. When I first realised Padman was not as other women, I thought I was the only member of the governing body who had guessed. In the weeks that followed I tried to work out who knew what, but before I could reach any conclusion, Padman had outed herself over half the front page of the Times.
Many of Newnham’s Fellows wanted the college to go co-ed, and at least as many did not. The college was under pressure to relinquish its single-sex status in line with EU human rights legislation, but before the Fellows’ latest vote on the issue, the members of the junior and middle common rooms had lined the corridors holding lit candles and signs begging us to vote “no” to the admission of men.
If the Fellows had discussed the issue of Padman’s membership of the college, I would have argued against it, but if a subsequent vote had gone against me, I would have accepted the situation. If the principal had explained what she thought she was doing, I would have held my tongue. Instead she ignored the governing body and committed the Fellows to a course of action that some of them could not in conscience support.
A day or two later, an extraordinarily defamatory article appeared in the Guardian, alleging not only that I had outed Padman, but also that I was an eccentric and unreliable teacher. The college could have dealt with the matter by issuing a statement, but it did nothing. I had no option but to resign my fellowship and train as a lawyer, so that I could afford to bring a suit against the Guardian, which took a year to cave in and pay up.
I gave the sum paid as damages to the college, but no apology was forthcoming. Writing this now I realise though I am once again a Fellow of sorts, I am still not reconciled. So having unseen assailants throw a bag of glitter over me in Wellington is neither here nor there. It seems a typically masculine overreaction, though, when you think about it.
Padman, who insists that his transsexual status is less important than his academic career, yet every newspaper article is about Padman’s transsexuality. Very few born-females get this constant positive attention from the media. Certainly Greer gets as much, if not more media attention, but it is usually negative coverage, and not about her, but her opinion on current issues. That is a massive difference in the way the media treats women who are supposedly the same. Born-females always remain lower on the sex/gender hierarchy than M2Ts, and that is why the claim that transwomen have it worse than born-females is yet another lie.
Newnham College, founded in 1871, was the first women’s college in the UK to become self-governing, and remains the largest women’s college at either Cambridge or Oxford.
Padman’s appointment to Newnham pre-dated the Gender Recognition Act of 2004, and Greer rightfully made the point that Padman’s appointment to Newnham at that time contravened the college’s statutes – Padman at that time had no legal status as a woman, yet was admitted as a Fellow of the women’s college (at the time men were not permitted to be Fellows).
One way Newnham could solve the problem would be by voting to admit men as fellows – the move was rejected by a small majority in 1990 – but Dr Padman said she preferred to keep the college single-sex. “It is an exhilarating feeling being surrounded by clever and intelligent women,” she said.
Padman could have easily joined any of the numerous co-ed facilties at Cambridge, but instead chose one of three women-only colleges, even though he had no legal standing or right to do so at the time.
Padman would not have been as controversial had he joined a co-ed college, he would not have had the same level of media attention – he delighted in being a bigger fish in a smaller pond. The message is very clear – the male-born can do whatever they like, and females have no power to stop them even when the male did not have the legal standing to enter women-only spaces. Even Greer, a professor of some standing, had to study law in order to defend herself against one newspaper’s defamation to her reputation – there is little hope of non-lawyer females standing up against the constant barage of lies and invasions against us, even when what these males were doing was illegal. Of course now, the law is clearly on their side, and the Government is bending over backwards to help them.
Later males feel perfectly entitled to ‘glitterbomb’ any female who has stood up against any illegal invasion of the past as a vendetta against such ‘uppity females’, even sixteen years afterwards. I disagree with Greer though, that the ‘glitterbombing’ is not “neither here nor there” but a reminder to the rest of us females that we will be punished for standing up for ourselves and the right to female-only spaces.