In which we interview feminists and their allies who have been removed from social networking sites (forever!) for ideological reasons.
Who are you and what do you do?
I'm a 38 year old Isle-of-Wighter currently living in York with my two dogs, Scrabble and Matilda. Since 2018 I've been a Research Associate at York specialising in, ooh er big words, the metaphysics of experience, and in particular, experiences such as hallucinations, illusions, and dreams. Before that, I was a lecturer and post doc. Recently, after stumbling into the 'Terf Wars', I've been thinking about the concept of gender identity (what IS it?) as well as 'woman' and 'lesbian' (though you hardly need to be a philosopher to understand those!). Alongside philosophy, I have a regular part-time job which I'd be happy to disclose but cannot in the current climate where mere *thoughts* are being policed (consider, e.g. Maya Forstater who lost her job for expressing gender critical views on-line)
Is Twitter important to you? Why?
Twitter is indeed fairly important! Most obviously, it's the easiest way to keep up to date with my philosopher friends as well as the Terf Wars. Being deaf, I rely heavily upon social media to communicate: indeed, I am (was) in various chat groups and kept in touch with several siblings on there. I find the platform to be a leveller for me in that, unlike real life, my communication difficulties are not apparent (well, not until after a second glass of wine, I suppose ...)
What was the tweet that got you banned from Twitter?
The tweet of doom was a joke to two friends (@khaos004 and @cyclepath6) that I was going to literally kill them for a light-hearted remark about my cooking (ban notice and the context of the tweet attached). We've all said "I'm going to kill you" in response to a joke without channelling McKinnon and Yaniv who HAVE made such remarks with serious intent.
Was there a lead up to you getting banned? Can you describe it?
Over a period of two-three months I had felt that, as I gained more followers and visibility within the Twitter-verse, that attempts to goad me into something ban-worthy were escalating. Stephanie Hayden, for example, regularly calls my intelligence into question ("a bargain-basement philosopher") and Hayden's associate Adrian Harrop has tweeted that I have "emotional dysregulation" which is simply medical speak for: 'crazy, hysterical, woman'!
So, of course, if you respond, you risk appearing that you DO have said condition. It is classic gaslighting in tweet form. Most days, I was asked explicitly whether I think trans women are women, and of course, if you say "no, they are biological men", then you are going to get reported. Rachel McKinnon has also tweeted that I am guilty of misgendering by using the term 'They' which I take to be another attempt at pushing me into saying what I really think (except I can now - McKinnon is a man and I am not apologetic about that).
My error, of course, was to be lax in thinking that replies to friends wouldn't be so closely monitored (frankly, I find it creepy and obsessive that one user boasted of making 22 reports in the 20 minutes between posting I was going to literally kill my friend for insulting my culinary skills (!) and then being banned for said 'death threat').
In additon to being goaded into using the word 'man', lesbians are also being pushed into defending their sexuality. There is simply no other way to explain what should be a non-controversial taken-for-granted part of our being than saying we are not attracted to men, and if we must be blunt, people with penises. Most of us are aware of McKinnon tweeting that lesbians should overcome their "genital hangups" and Alex Sharpe's echoing that by suggesting lesbians should "examine their preferences." Whilst I'm very comfortable with my sexuality, I take such comments from fairly prominent academic figures to be potentially upsetting to those who - for whatever reasons - are struggling to accept themselves. As I'm happy to lend my voice (small as it is!) to this debate, I feel it is important to speak up for those who feel unable to as it is extroardinarily offensive to have our sexuality - something that I considered to be about as relevant as my toothpaste preference in the morning until I was pushed into regularly defending it - redefined by (and I can say this now I'm no longer bound by Twitter rules) misogynistic heterosexual men.
People are often confused by the gender debate. Can you explain it and explain your part in it?
Sure! My part, small as it is, is as a lesbian who is increasingly concerned at the attempts by lobbying groups such as Stonewall and Mermaids, and individuals such as Linda Riley, to redefine lesbian as being same gender attracted. There is of course nothing wrong with being attracted to a certain type of gender presentation, but a lesbian it does not make. Originally, I thought that people must have been talking metaphorically when they spoke of being a woman because no-one in possession of cognitive faculties functioning within normal parameters would surely think that a FEELING is sufficient for being a woman, would they?Except, of course, it turns out they do. So I find myself in the utterly insane situation of having to defend biological reality and my sexual orientation because the consequences of not doing so will lead to self-identified women being able to access safe spaces (e.g. refuges), compete in women's sports, and redefine my sexual orientation. Given that so many women feel unable to speak out for fear of career and/or personal repercussions, and given that I don't have to fear those things, I felt obliged to stand up. And I'm so very glad I did, because I've met you (!) and so many other wonderful people. We have got this TOGETHER.
How do you plan to go on fighting?
Well, I'm starting a Podcast later this month discussing how the self-identification debate is affecting women. I'm also in the process of writing several co-authored and single authored pieces for publication. And there are several protests planned such as the Lesbian Strength March on the 7th September in Leeds where I'll be speaking (yes, that's right, come hear me speak not about wine drinking and tweeting but about what I've experienced in academia as a result of having, to my mind, perfectly commonsense views!). I'm involved in various feminist groups and plan to continue reaching out to people off-line.
If you managed to sneak into Jack Dorsey’s weekly yoga cleanse or whatever the hell, what would you say to him?
I'd hand him a copy of 'Anatomy and Physiology for Dummies' which has coloured illustrations in and everyfink about how biological men are not in possession of a vagina despite what they call their appendages! After that, I'd ask him why so many women such as Meghan Murphy, Pilgrim Tucker, and Feminist Roar have been silenced for stating biological facts whereas others who regularly post threatening statements to women (e.g. McKinnon telling "cis women" to "die in a grease fire") are allowed to continue with impunity.
NEXT TIME: CLAIRE GRAHAM