Quadrant readers, it’s safe to assume, forgot to celebrate International Pronouns Day last week. Yes, I know it’s hard to keep up with everything on the jam-packed rainbow calendar, from Bisexuality Visibility Day in September to the upcoming Transgender Awareness Month, but do try to make more of an effort.
If you missed last week’s day of inclusion and validation, don’t worry too much: as Macquarie University’s communications team reminds everyone, International Pronouns Day is really about acknowledging gender pronouns every day of the year. To help you on your way, pronoun badges are available for collection at multiple venues across campus, including the Queer Safe Room, a gathering space for LGBTQIA+ students and staff as well as straight allies. The team also provides a helpful reminder to add your pronouns to both your Macquarie Uni email signature and your Zoom name display. For some reason, there’s also a list of embarrassingly old-fashioned language that right-thinking students should avoid: you know, words like wife, gentlemen, and girls.
As I click on the links provided to acquire more information, I learn what should be done when students fail to treat pronouns with the requisite seriousness. If a student misgenders his peers, he should welcome a correction, apologise, and commit to doing better in the future. If not, however, and he resists re-education, Macquarie University suggests reporting the offender’s behaviour via the sinisterly titled Wellbeing CARE Report system, so that the appropriate authorities can take further action.
If any current students are reading this, my advice is as follows: when someone flashes a they/them badge at you, just make a mental note not to include them in your next group project or presentation. It may help you avoid any conversational hassles and, ultimately, the campus gulag.
The pronoun-obsessed students and administrators at Macquarie University, however, could still learn a few lessons in censoriousness from another player in the higher education sector. At its most recent airing of grievances, the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) formalised its distaste for the apparently outdated concept of academic freedom.
To recap: the NTEU has just passed a motion condemning “gender critical ideology”, an entire field of research and teaching. The campaign was led by transgender activist Amy Sargeant, who is the national convenor — oh, good grief — of the union’s queer caucus. Sargeant would like to see gender critical scholars extirpated from both the academy and the union for their ongoing and so far unpunished heresies. Such scholars, you see, haven’t gone along with the transgender orthodoxy and persist in holding the view that sex is immutable and that men can’t give birth, among other things. Gender critical ideology, in one reading, is simply what the vast majority of sensible Australians subscribe to. Or, as Amy Sargeant huffily puts it:
“It is a genocidal hate movement operating in tertiary spaces which contributes to the climate of violence which kills people like me.”
Sargeant’s NTEU motion, which was only slightly cooler in its rhetoric, passed without much opposition or questioning. I rubbed my eyes when combing through it, but I think its logic goes something like this: gender critical scholarship is actually a cover for transphobic hate speech; it isn’t research or academic work, after all, and it’s therefore undeserving of protection via the principles of academic freedom.
While the NTEU was whipping votes, Melbourne University was putting the union’s theory into practice. The School of Historical and Political Studies had planned an event titled Pride and Prejudice in Policy, which was supposed to feature both in-person panelists and online speakers. The topic: what lessons Australia can learn about workplace diversity programs from the UK experience, where the charity Stonewall has run into a spot of bother, to put it mildly. Stonewall — and this should be familiar — has been accused of undue editorial influence over institutions like the BBC as well as making the crackpot claim that two-year-olds can identify as transgender.
Anyhow, the content didn’t matter in the end; what caused a hissy-fit among the academic and activist class was the presence of a few gender critical feminists on the speaking schedule. This included Kathleen Stock, who was a professor of philosophy at Sussex University until 2021, when she was driven from her post by both students and staff after years of accusations of transphobia. Stock’s attendance — in the form of a pre-recorded address, mind you — apparently posed a threat to the safety and wellbeing of the university’s queer community.
One of the noisier critics of the event was the reliably awful Patrick Lenton, an editor at the The Conversation. He labelled the unwanted panelists transphobes and compared them to racists and Nazis, undeserving of having their voices heard in public debate. (Good luck, by the way, to any even mildly critical gender researcher who tries to get a submission past Lenton in the future.)
Before the event kicked off, about half the panellists and the moderator had withdrawn under pressure and there was a stupid campaign urging allies to reserve tickets and then fail to attend. Amusingly, there was also a pathetic group of transactivists having a tantrum outside the doors, protesting a debate where their own views would have been well represented.
It should be clear by now that a soft gender despotism has taken over our universities. My tour d’horizon, by the way, only accounts for what’s been going on at campuses in the last month. Never underestimate the tendency for things to get a whole lot worse.
With that dispiriting thought in mind, let’s check back with my alma mater, Macquarie University, where Professor of Indigenous Studies Sandy O’Sullivan has been very busy of late. With her work as a commissar on International Pronouns Day as well as her cheerleading for both the NTEU and the cancellers of the event down south, it’s amazing she has time to spare for her latest academic project. Dear reader, on your behalf I have dipped into Professor O’Sullivan’s research as it is set out in the journal Pipe Wrench no. 7, The Nonbinary Issue. Brace yourself, as she writes:
“Across 2020-2024 I’ve been awarded over a million dollars by the Australian Research Council to conduct research exploring Indigenous creativities, a surprising investment.”
Yeah, it is. What, I hear you wondering, will those tax dollars be spent on? O’Sullivan bangs on a good deal about its “anti-colonial” aims, which will “challenge the colonial project of gender.” Luckily for her, the colonisers are still happy to provide the money for such hobbies. This is despite the fact that her research methods are a bit sloppy, I think. From what I can gather, she plans to stop by a few museums and galleries and wonder if the figures in this or that artwork might have been trans or gender non-conforming. Of course, she won’t know for sure, but that’s kind of the point. She confesses to getting a bit grumpy when her colleagues ask for evidence of such claims, so she tersely replies: “Proof is not required.” In fact, the other aim of her project is to disrupt the very concept of “proof” and replace it with some blather about lived experience or something.
In setting out these episodes of gender madness at our universities, it is my hope that we may soon see a counter-revolution of some kind. A re-examination of the funding priorities of the Australian Research Council would be a timid, but positive first step. I also like the idea of the destruction of the influence of the NTEU. Former Gender Studies professors lining up at Centrelink also provides a cheering thought. To reach this goal, conservative students, teachers and supporters need to find a bit of backbone when dealing with these campus curiosities.
For what it’s worth, I don’t find that particularly difficult myself. For example, I’ve decided to remain unbothered by a solecism I’ve committed in the last few paragraphs. Professor O’Sullivan, I’ve just noticed, has colonised a fair bit of the LGBTQ+ initialism by identifying as trans, queer and non-binary, and she demands to be addressed by they/them pronouns.
It may not be in the spirit of International Pronouns Day, but I simply don’t care. I suggest that Professor O’Sullivan go have a sook in Macquarie University’s Queer Safe Room and then jump on the Wellbeing CARE Report to dob me in.
See? How hard is that?