Anti-feminism and collective response

22nd January 2019

A message from Professor Clare Hemmings, Head of the Department of Gender Studies, LSE:

As you all know, these are difficult times. Attacks on feminism and feminists are becoming commonplace across the globe. From Brazil to Sweden, right wing populism relies on racism, misogyny and homophobia to entrench hatred as a fundamental part of how it flourishes. On 21st January, Prof. Kimberlé Crenshaw's workshop at LSE was aggressively interrupted by a single individual who talked over her, shouted misogynist invective, threatened students and staff, and needed to be physically removed from the premises. Such attempts to disrupt feminist spaces are familiar from repeated attempts to silence feminist work and generate a climate of hostility towards feminist, anti-racist, anti-homophobic practice. These attacks are not new of course - those interrogating the naturalness of gender, race or sexuality hierarchies have always been positioned as a threat to family and nation - but they have a new intensity in the context of the current increase of right wing nationalisms and populisms. And this is of course why we need intersectional theorising more than ever. 

I want you all to know that the Department will not tolerate such attacks on freedom of speech and intellectual integrity and will continue to generate open, inclusive spaces for discussion of important, difficult, complex ideas and principles. In light of yesterday's attempted derailment of our workshop, we can reassure you that this particular person is known to security across campus and that we will take any measures at our disposal to safeguard participant well-being and security in public event contexts, while keeping in mind the principles of open discussion and participation so central to feminist knowledge and to LSE as a whole. 

I was personally blown away by how Kim responded to attacks on her freedom of speech by bringing our experiences into the frame of intersectional knowledge and politics that she has spent her intellectual life articulating. This is feminist and anti-racist knowledge production at its best, and while I would never want to put faculty or students at risk for the sake of politics, I am nevertheless happy that those of you who were there were able to experience this extraordinary and positive response to aggression. We will not be silenced. 

While we work (tirelessly and together) towards a different social order, we could do worse than read Judith Butler's new article for the New Statesman that outlines some of the ways in which taking 'gender' as an object of study is constructed as a threat to nationalism and religious authoritarianism

We include a Portuguese translation of the statement thanks to Sonia Corrêa and Rajnia de Vito Nunes Rodrigues from 'Sexuality Policy Watch', and a Spanish one written by our PhD student Tomás Ojeda.  We attach here.