Oxford Brookes University cancels feminist speaker Rachel Ara after students accuse her of transphobia The Times 20.11.19

The original article is here.

A feminist artist who was due to speak at Oxford Brookes University yesterday had her talk cancelled at the last minute after students accused her of holding transphobic views.

The event featuring Rachel Ara, hosted by the university’s fine art research unit, was called off after the LGBTQ+ society sent a letter to Anne-Marie Kilday, the pro-vice-chancellor, condemning her invitation.

The society said in the letter: “Rachel Ara is a trans-exclusionary radical feminist who frequently shares transphobic discourse on her social media. She has openly showed support for the ‘LGB Alliance’, which is openly transphobic and seeks to isolate trans people within the LGBTQ+ movement. While this speaker may be invited under the pretence of academic freedom, we firmly believe that inviting such speakers infringes upon academic freedom at Oxford Brookes.”

The letter to Professor Kilday was signed by a number of people, including the chairman of the university’s Labour Party Club and the president of the LGBTQ+ society.

Ara, 53, said that her art was clearly “too challenging for today’s youth” and lamented that “the world has gone slightly mad”.

She added: “I was going to be talking about feminism and art, and the difficulties that exist for women trying to break through. It was nothing to do with trans issues. I’m not transphobic. I have been openly gay for 35 years. I think this movement is misogynistic — they are only targeting other women.”

It is the latest free speech row on campus. The clash between feminism and trans rights is often behind decisions to no-platform speakers. Universities deny that there is a problem, but research by the Policy Exchange think tank found that fewer than half of students consistently supported freedom of speech, with two-fifths favouring the no-platforming of controversial speakers.

Earlier this year the Open University cancelled a conference on prison reform after threats from the transgender lobby. More than 100 delegates had already bought tickets for the two-day event in May, which was co-organised with the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies. The educational charity had been accused of transphobia for taking the view that transgender female prisoners should be jailed separately from female prisoners.

Other incidents include Cambridge University rescinding its offer of a visiting fellowship to the philosopher Jordan Peterson in March after a backlash from the faculty and students. Also at Cambridge, Noah Carl, a social scientist, was sacked from his junior research fellowship after academics and students protested about his right-wing views.

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