The OU, Academic Freedom and a Not-So Open University
16th June saw the launch of the Open University Gender Critical Research Network.
“A range of academics and scholars, all of which share a common interest in exploring how sexed bodies come to matter in their respective research fields and a common commitment to ensuring that a space within academia is kept open for those explorations.
We will reflect on the importance of sexed bodies for health and welfare. We will critique the constraining stereotypes of gender. We will provide a hub through which theories and research can be shared and exchanged and will host workshops and an annual one-day conference. Our events will be maximally accessible. We aim to foster evidence-based and rigorous research in this burgeoning field and explore ways to foster maximum knowledge exchange, impact on policy and ideas and dissemination.”
Of course, the response from gender zealots was almost immediate and, within days of the launch, the usual accusations of transphobia were all over social media.
There was the now-habitual hyperbolic handwringing over students being ‘frightened’ and ‘endangered’ on campus. (By the setting up of an academic research network…?)
The OU Student Association issued a statement “to show support for all our Trans and Non-Binary students and staff ” and highlighting “the upset that the Gender Critical Research Network has caused”.
All week, the network suffered sustained condemnation, harassment and defamation as The Open University was put under tremendous pressure to close it down.
One particularly pernicious attempt to silence and defame the OUGCRN came via The London School of Economics and Political Science Department of Gender Studies. On social media, in a pinned tweet to 18K+ followers, they made a ‘statement of solidarity’ with Open University staff and students who, they claimed, now face ‘an unwelcoming and antagonistic environment’ due to the creation of the OUGCRN.
“The Gender Critical Research Network is an explicitly anti-intellectual attack on Gender Studies, trans, nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming people, and inclusive, intersectional feminist politics. Proponents of the “gender critical” perspective, including the Members and Affiliated Members of the Network, are adamantly and openly opposed to recognising trans people’s rightful and valid claims to their gender and their rights.
As numerous scholars and activists have documented, those espousing gender-critical perspectives routinely make transphobic, discriminatory, inaccurate, and harmful claims about trans people specifically, and gender more broadly, that have profoundly negative effects on social and political life.”
Not only did they make these unfounded and mendacious allegations, they accused the OUGCRN of creating a ‘trans hostile’ environment and demanded that the OU withdraw its affiliation with and support.
A few days later, after the OUGCRN had, quite rightly, made complaints to the LSE, this ‘statement of solidarity’ disappeared. (Luckily, it has been archived so the lies and accusations remain in evidence.) The original tweet posting the statement also seems to have vanished.
No retraction has been made and no apology has been offered. It looks very much like the LSE Gender Studies Department spewed some outrageous lies and allegations then had to make a dash for the delete button when their defamatory actions were called out. Since then their silence has been deafening.
Doesn’t that speak volumes about the house of cards on which this ideology is built? Even its most vociferous exponents have no courage in their convictions and run for the hills when their lies are challenged.