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SU campaign appalled at Oxford Literary Festival for hosting ‘gender-critical’ sportswoman Sharron Davies

On Sunday 17 March, the Oxford Student Union LGBTQ+ Campaign issued a statement against the Oxford Literary Festival for hosting Sharron Davies in their  event Unfair Play: The Battle for Women’s Sport

Sharron Davies is a former competitive swimmer and in her new book Unfair Play: The Battle for Women’s Sport she argues against the participation of trans women in women’s sport. 

The LGBTQ+ Campaign publicly stated that they were “appalled by the decision” due to Davies’ past comments regarding the LGBTQ+ and transgender community. They noted that in 2019, she had compared drag shows to blackface in a tweet stating they were “a parody of what a real woman is, like blackface.” 

Davies’ synopsis of her book and the upcoming event, which is scheduled to take place on Thursday 21 March, refers to transgender women as “biological males” and states that their involvement in women’s sport “threatens the integrity of women’s [sport]” and “is the latest manifestation of decades of sexism.” The LGBTQ+ Campaign stated that this is “a claim incredibly insulting to the real victims of sexism in sports.” 

While the Oxford Literary Festival is independent of the University of Oxford, several schools, seven colleges, and the Bodleian Libraries are listed as some of the Festival’s “sponsors, donors, and partners.” 

The LGBTQ+ Campaign spoke against the University’s involvement and, in particular, referenced the Vice-Chancellor, Irene Tracey’s first oration in October 2023, when she expressed sadness over the intolerant rhetoric aimed at the University’s transgender staff and students that surrounded Kathleen Stock’s appearance. The Vice-Chancellor said “we should have done more to support them; rest assured lessons were learned.” 

However, the LGBTQ+ Campaign view the platforming of this event as contradictory to the Vice-Chancellor’s assertion and said “in choosing to hold this event, and the language used in its promotion it is clear that this is not the case.” The Student Union Campaign declared: “the University cannot claim it cares about us whilst allowing this to happen.”

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