A professor of economics at the University of Exeter, England, has been accused of transphobia after tweeting that “only female people menstruate”.
The conflict began when Dr. Poen responded to a tweet which said: “Not everyone who menstruates is female. Not everyone who is female menstruates. Let’s shift our language.”
Dr. Poen replied by saying: “Only female people menstruate. Only female people go through menopause.”
In another tweet, responding to the insurance company Aviva promoting trans inclusion in women’s sports, Dr. Poen wrote: “’Let’s keep female sports for FEMALE PEOPLE. Stay in your lane, Aviva. We don’t tell you how to do insurance; it would be great if you could stop telling women to give up their hard earned place in society. Women’s sport is not yours to give away.”
Both of these tweets sparked outrage from the university’s LGBTQ+ society, with their “gender non-binary” representative saying that the Professor’s comments were “an attack” on trans people, and that “The fact the university tolerates her is really frustrating”.
Similarly, the university’s Feminist Society said: “It’s shocking that a lecturer at the University of Exeter would feel so comfortable saying such transphobic comments publicly…The university must investigate the allegations thoroughly and look at it from, if nothing else, a well-being standpoint for groups of students within that community.”
Dr. Poen also received backlash on Twitter, with angry users saying she needs to be reported and potentially lose her job or even be convicted for saying that only women have periods:
Twitter user @renieplayerone said: “Maybe stop calling transwomen men or predators (which is incitement to violence) and we’ll stop calling for you bigots to get fired.”
Maybe stop calling transwomen men or predators (which is incitement to violence) and we'll stop calling for you bigots to get fired
— Renie ❤️s Magical Girls (@renieplayerone) August 19, 2019
@rosaliemarsden said: “Last time I checked transphobia is actually a hate crime… might wanna look into that”
Last time I checked transphobia is actually a hate crime… might wanna look into that
— Rosalie Marsden (@rosaliemarsden) March 9, 2020
User @mrrogerslikesme said: “Why do these people have jobs in any educational institution making statements like that? Must have the confidence of tenure to go off spouting that complete bullsh*t. I’m serious, I want to know who is responsible for this garbage.”
Why do these people have jobs in any educational institution making statements like that? Must have the confidence of tenure to go off spouting that complete bullshit. I'm serious, I want to know who is responsible for this garbage.
— @mrrogerslikesme (@mrrogerslikesme) February 26, 2019
@Rascal778 weighed in: “I’m still astounded she has a job at a decent university. What were they thinking?”
I'm still astounded she has a job at a decent university. What were they thinking?
— Cam Rhino #IStandWithMaya (@Rascal778) August 26, 2019
There was also a torrent of personal abuse, with users calling Dr. Poen a “sad b*tch” among other things. She has since set her Twitter to protected mode to hide her tweets due to the backlash.
A University of Exeter spokesperson said: ‘We support free speech within the law and expect people to conduct any debate with courtesy and respect for all. We’re not going to comment on an individual but of course academic freedom and freedom of speech are fundamental to our university. In the pursuit of new knowledge, free and open debate is crucial.”
The row has highlighted the growing tensions between feminists and trans activists – and the concerns from women’s rights campaigners that they are being increasingly silenced in the controversy.