Women’s Campaign question platform for Caroline Criado-Perez

Helen Spokes 26 October 2014

The CUSU Women’s Campaign has issued an open letter against the invitation to Caroline Criado-Perez to speak at the Women of the World (WOW) Festival.

Criado-Perez, a feminist famous for the ‘Keep a Woman on Banknotes’ campaign, was invited by the organisers of the festival, which is due to take place on Sunday 26th October at 10:30am at the Cambridge Junction, part of the Cambridge Festival of Ideas.

In the letter, the Women’s Campaign express their “disappointment” at the invitation because of her beliefs on “trans people, especially women”.

While they recognise the “online bullying” that Criado-Perez has faced from “misogynist trolls”, the Women’s Campaign argue against her suitability as a candidate to speak at the festival, which “claims to be ‘committed to celebrating women of all kinds’”.

The Women’s Campaign refers to her exclusion of trans women from her feminist politics, her “limited and narrow-minded understanding of what it means to be a woman under the patriarchy” and her “attitude” which offers “cis women…a privileged voice”.

The letter reports an incident in December 2013, where Caroline Criado-Perez appeared on Woman’s Hour and claimed: “It’s right that white women obviously recognise their voices are heard more than women from minority communities. But certain people are using intersectionality as a cloak to abuse other women”.

The letter goes on to state that “the message sent out by the event, especially by including Criado-Perez…is that you deem the safety and comfort of particular groups of women to be above those of others in our community”.

They continued, “It is ironic and painful that someone invited to speak on the topic of ‘online harassment’ has persistently attacked trans people and other feminists online, including members of the Women’s Campaign”.

Sandy Rushton, Trinity Hall JCR Women’s Officer, commented: “The experiences and voices of marginalised groups of women should be prioritised at events like this, not sidelined in order to make space for speakers who so vocally exclude trans women from their feminism”.

And Amelia Horgan, CUSU Women's Officer, told TCS that "Caroline Criado-Perez, through her rejection of theory that values trans identity and experience, has shown herself to be no ally to trans women. The Women's Campaign supports all women, and does not tolerate transphobia or transmisogyny.

"We're not calling on the University to dis-invite Caroline Criado-Perez but we want them to acknowledge the real hurt and damage they have caused by giving her this platform."

The Women of the World Festival website states: "There are platforms for women of all ages to have their say". It also confirms Criado-Perez will be speaking specifically on women, the world wide web and "tackling trolls". 

This incident follows the eruption of the no platform debate throughout Cambridge, which included debates about pro-life campaigners at the Freshers’ Festival, as well as the invitation of speakers to the university, such as the Israeli Ambassador, Daniel Taub, and the cancelled event with Nigel Farage.

Any person connected to the University of Cambridge can read and sign the open letter here.