An online petition has been launched seeking to prevent Germaine Greer from giving a lecture at Cardiff University, claiming her views are “problematic” for transgender people.
The petition on Change.org was started by Rachael Melhuish, women’s officer at the university’s students’ union, and alleges that Greer has “demonstrated misogynistic views towards trans women, including continually misgendering trans women and denying the existence of transphobia altogether”.
The Australian writer is due to speak on 18 November in a lecture called Women& Power: The Lessons of the 20th Century.
Asked about the petition, Greer told the Guardian: “I don’t really know what I think of it. It strikes me as a bit of a put-up job really because I am not even going to talk about the issue that they are on about.
“What they are saying is that because I don’t think surgery will turn a man into a woman I should not be allowed to speak anywhere.”
Greer said that she did not understand the mindset of those who had signed the petition, adding: “I do not know why universities cannot hear unpopular views and think about what they mean.”
The author compared the recent growth of campaigns against speakers as a result of their views on transgender issues to the Fathers 4 Justice movement, which ran a high-profile campaign for improved rights for men denied access to their children.
“They were a right pain in the arse and they did not do their cause any good at all. This is very like that.”
The university, which has invited Greer to deliver the address for the eighth in a series of annual lectures, insisted that the event would go ahead.
The petition urging the university to cancel the event had been signed by more than 300 people by early Friday afternoon. The university has more than 30,000 students.
It says: “Trans-exclusionary views should have no place in feminism or society. Such attitudes contribute to the high levels of stigma, hatred and violence towards trans people – particularly trans women – both in the UK and across the world.
“While debate in a university should be encouraged, hosting a speaker with such problematic and hateful views towards marginalised and vulnerable groups is dangerous. Allowing Greer a platform endorses her views, and by extension, the transmisogyny which she continues to perpetuate.”
It argues that universities “should prioritise the voices of the most vulnerable on their campuses, not invite speakers who seek to further marginalise them”.
The university’s vice-chancellor, Prof Colin Riordan, said it was committed to freedom of speech and open debate. “Our events include speakers with a range of views, all of which are rigorously challenged and debated,” he said.
“This event will be no different. Our commitment to our LGBT+ students and staff members is unwavering and we fully recognise the tremendous benefits of having such a diverse community brings to Cardiff University.
“We work hard to provide a positive and welcoming space for LGBT+ people and we are in consultation with student and staff groups to ensure that the views of LGBT+ people are represented at our events. We in no way condone discriminatory comments of any kind.”
Greer said she had seen the university’s statement, which she said was “as weak as piss”.
“If the University of Cardiff cannot guarantee that I will not have things thrown at me then I won’t go there. I can’t be bothered.”
Of her critics, she added: “They think that they are entitled to throw things at me and then they say that I am inciting violence against transexuals. I have never incited anyone to violence against anyone. I am just fed up with it all. It’s all just froth.”
“I don’t expect people to agree with me. On the other hand, I don’t expect them to throw things at me and, in the past, in New Zealand I have had things thrown at me and in the end it’s just an internet campaign, which is virtual rather than real.
“I just don’t think that surgery turns a man into a woman. A perfectly permissable view. I mean, an un-man is not necessarily a woman. We don’t really know what women are and I think that a lot of women are female impersonators, because our notion of who we are is not authentic, and so I am not surprised men are better at impersonating women than women are. Not a surprise, but it’s not something I welcome.”
No examples of Greer’s alleged positions on transgender people were cited by the petition.