25 March 2021

If social networks silence gender-critical women: interview with Alessandra Asteriti

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(The interview was carried out as part of the activities of SeNonOraQuando Genova, a feminist association with a ten-year history committed to raising cultural awareness for the recognition of women in society at all levels, for their fair representation in decision-making roles, and for the elimination of violence against them.).

The name of Alessandra Asteriti, teacher of International law at Leuphana University of Hamburg, appeared in the Italian public debate last December 2020, when his speech entitled "Gender identity is against women". was published by Concita De Gregorio in his column on The Republic.

In the letter, Asteriti testified how having taken -for two years now- the a critical stance on the concept of gender identity had exposed her, both in academic circles and on social media (especially Twitter), to accusations, threats and heavy ostracism of various kinds.

Shortly after its release on La Republicdespite the great solidarity and support expressed by many women for the contents of the letter, Alessandra Asteriti's Twitter account has been suspended. Subsequently, some queer associations approached the university where Asteriti teaches asking for an official distance from the management than the opinions expressed by the teacher. Finally, within a couple of months, Asteriti also had her Facebook account deactivated.

We decided together with Alessandra to carry out this interview because it is very worrying that so many women are systematically censored on social networks. His testimony deserves to be disseminated and debated, not only with regard to the issue of gender identity, but because the story is exemplary and opens up an important and serious question on the freedom of expressionlaw fundamental which in a democratic state must be guaranteed to every citizen.

Alessandra, can we say that we are facing a censorship operation against you? What are the official reasons that Twitter and Facebook have given you to justify the closure of your accounts?

I received no explanation from Facebook. Twitter informed me that I had been suspended for "hateful conduct". [hate behaviour, ed.] and specifically for this tweet

Se i social network silenziano le donne gender critical: intervista ad Alessandra Asteriti

[Translation: "Let's remember that in 2015 300,000 women around the world died in childbirth. What will it take to stop this trans madness?", ed].

To explain the context, the tweet referred to a British case concerning the allocation of funds to finance a research project to implant wombs in trans women (i.e. biologically male people). My comment was intended to emphasise how dangerous it is, even from the point of view of the decisions that are made by a government in the area of research funding, substitute gender for biological sex: In this way, strictly female pathologies or health problems become something of a minority, because not all people who identify themselves as women suffer from them. As with other trans issues, it seems that the needs expressed by this group must always take precedence over the needs and demands made by women. So yes, I would say that women - like me, there are so many - are censored and silenced. if they allow themselves to express criticism of gender ideology, but also just of bringing attention to women's issues. Or, even more worryingly, when they explicitly refer to issues such as the male violence or the patriarchate understood in a non-inclusive sense.

From 2018 to date, the number of women "silenced" by Twitter for expressing gender critical positions is staggering. What is your take on the politics of these platforms? What are the interests at stake?

I think it depends on the platforms. And then I don't want to do any dietrology or talk about conspiracies. Of course, I wonder why this movement has achieved such goals in such a short time. Until a few years ago, the idea that biological sex was not a reality easily would be considered absurd and offensive. towards women, who are the victims of sexism.

Who in Italy contacted you after your letter to De Gregorio and what kind of feedback did you get?

Mostly negative feedback, as I expected, and as I told Concita. I have been suspended from Twitter again, permanently and, since the Better Business Bureau is no longer available, with no possibility of recovering an account that I also used for work. The suspension this time was again motivated by 'hateful conduct', but for a tweet in Italian: that's why I'm sure it's related to my article on The Republic. The tweet, just to give an idea of how restricted women's right to speak in this field is, was as follows:

Se i social network silenziano le donne gender critical: intervista ad Alessandra Asteriti

As regards the academic environment, both at Italian and international level, what is the atmosphere regarding these issues? Is there any debate? Have you received solidarity from colleagues?

The climate is absurdly limiting. A human rights colleague of mine working in Britain, an absolute expert in the field, told me that he had never seen a climate of terror as for gender ideology: said on the phone, because he was afraid to talk about these things via email. This is to say. Debate is impossible. Not only do colleagues ignore you and try to limit your ability to talk about these things (hence no invitations to lectures, papers rejected for publication, etc.) but also students feel entitled to send you emails and messages telling you to shut up, asking the university to take a public stand against you, staging protests to prevent you from attending seminars.

Students at my university in Germany (I should stress), after accepting an invitation to a debate, accused me of treating trans people as sub-human. That is I was accused of behaving like the Nazi regime behaved with minorities. I asked my university to support my right to speak and my academic freedom, but so far I have had no reply. I have also received threats both on Twitter and on the university email. The university removed my address and photo from the university website, but did not volunteer any support. No public solidarity from colleaguesbut it must be considered that especially women are afraid. A male colleague of mine, when I confided in him that I had received death threats, replied by email that although he defended freedom of expression he was of the opinion that we should all be more open to trans lifestyles. It's pretty self-explanatory, I think.

Your critique of the concept of gender identity is, of course, articulated from the perspective of law, your field of research. What are the implications of the introduction of the concept of gender identity in international law?

This question would require an essay, and in fact I am thinking of writing an article, but I already know that it would be very difficult to find a magazine willing to publish it. In short, the women's rights are based on genderas well as the discrimination that rights were introduced to combat. Replacing sex, which is an identifiable and recognisable biological reality, with gender identity, a concept that is undefined and unknown to many women and rejected by others (especially feminists, as it is based on a stereotyped and sexist version of women) inevitably has repercussions. In law, definitions are essential, especially if positive rights are derived from them. Changing the definition changes the criteria for deciding to whom these rights belong. This is in general.

Then, of course, if the definition of a woman is no longer linked to biological sex, it becomes almost It is impossible to decide when a certain behaviour, whether of the state or of an employer, is discrimination or not. If there are women who do not need leave because of breastfeeding, or pregnancy, or other problems related to women's health, it becomes much more difficult to prove that the employer has discriminated against the woman worker because she is a woman. Finally, all spaces and services that are reserved for women become by necessity open to men as well. This is if the self ID becomes law, but in some countries also without a specific law, simply because organisations such as the Stonewall spread a misinterpretation of the current law. Thus, to give just one example, men convicted of rape were put in women's prisons, where they committed further sexual violence, because they claimed to be women (no hormone treatment, or operation).

I would like to close by saying that this is a movement that is based on an absurd conception of reality, according to which what one thinks one is is more important than what one really is. But that only applies to sex, at least for now. We don't allow anyone to take ten years off their birth certificate because they feel younger or have had a facelift. Or to declare themselves black if they are not, or disabled if they are not. It seems that the only open ontological category is that of sex, especially the female sex, where, as the advertisement said, the word is enough. Just say I am a woman and you are one. Meanwhile, girls are still forced to undergo hormone treatment, mastectomy and hysterectomy in order to hope to be recognised as men. Like all male chauvinist ideologies, gender ideology is fought on women's bodies. and maintains the penis as a symbol of power. Except that it turns from a penis into a female penis (the famous girldick). In short: the penis is dead, long live the penis.

Emanuela Risso, SeNonOraQuando Genova

The interview was carried out as part of the activities of SeNonOraQuando Genova, a feminist association with a ten-year history committed to raising cultural awareness for the recognition of women in society at all levels, for their fair representation in decision-making roles, and for the elimination of violence against them..

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