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‘The Assault on Gender and Gender Studies’

November 16, 2018

The American Association of University Professors’ Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure and its Committee on Women in the Academic Profession on Thursday released a statement on the Trump administration’s reported plan to narrow the definition of gender under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits gender-based discrimination. Drawing parallels between Trump’s administration and others around the world that have sought to diminish the rights and status of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people of late, the statement “strongly condemns” efforts to “restrict the legal meaning of gender to what are said to be its natural, immutable forms.”

“Authoritarian efforts such as these can justify racial, class and sexual policing that disciplines forms of kinship and homemaking -- including same-sex, multi-generational, or other nonnormative households -- that deviate from established nuclear family norms,” the statement says. “Politicians and religious fundamentalists are neither scientists nor scholars. Their motives are ideological. It is they who are offering ‘gender ideology’ by attempting to override the insights of serious scholars. By substituting their ideology for years of assiduous research, they impose their will in the name of a ‘science’ that is without factual support. This is a cynical invocation of science for purely political ends.”

There is also a potential threat to academic freedom, the statement says, in that "like attacks on climate science, the effort to establish a legal definition of gender as binary could lead to denying research funding to scholars and to impugning the value and validity of their scholarly work. Fixing the meaning of gender in this way may undermine the open-ended forms of inquiry that define research and teaching in a democracy."

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