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In Praise of Gender Crits

“Gender-critical” is a jargonny way of describing the ordinary views held by the vast majority of the planet’s population.

In Praise of Gender Crits
A still frame from a video recording of University of Melburne philosopher Holly Lawford-Smith speaking at a 2021 event organized by the Victorian Women's Guild.

“What is feminism? Who is it for? Can men be feminists, or only allies? What is intersectionality, and must feminism be intersectional?” These are some of the questions tackled in a University of Melbourne course on the philosophy of feminism, formally designated in the university’s handbook as PHIL20046. Prospective students are informed that course content will include “a range of feminist theories, including both radical feminism and liberal feminism, and from all four ‘waves’ (with an emphasis on second wave feminism). We’ll also consider a range of applied topics like prostitution and pornography, inclusion of transwomen, theories of gender, gendered social norms, and reproductive rights.”

Content that is not included in PHIL20046, on the other hand, includes white supremacist propaganda, neo-Nazi talking points, and an approving literary exegesis of Mein Kampf. This might seem like an odd detail to note. But it is important to state for the record, given the profusion of stickers and posters recently plastered around the University of Melbourne campus, accusing the course instructor, Holly Lawford-Smith, of crafting her syllabus for the exclusive benefit of “fascists.”

Those who are familiar with the mantras of “intersectional feminism” likely won’t require an explanation for the quantum logic leap by which feminist philosophizing might be casually equated with the doctrines of Hitler, Mussolini, and Franco. But for those unschooled in such matters, the basis of complaint here is that Lawford-Smith is a “gender-critical feminist”—a term indicating one’s belief that biologically rooted differences between men and women are real; and so must be considered when marking the boundaries of female-protected spaces, such as women’s sports leagues, prisons, and domestic-violence centres.

Which is to say that “gender-critical” is a jargonny way of describing the ordinary views held by the vast majority of the planet’s population. And it speaks to the shocking extent of academia’s radicalization that Lawford-Smith’s belief in biological science would be regarded as the academic equivalent of a Nazi salute.

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