Caroline Criado-Perez (outside right) pictured with Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, who holds a prototype of the Jane Austen £10 noteFlickr: Bank of England

The CUSU Women’s Campaign has spoken out against the invitation of Caroline Criado-Perez to speak at the ‘Women of the World’ (WOW) Festival.

Criado-Perez, a British feminist activist and journalist, rose to prominence in 2013 when her efforts to have a woman depicted on English banknotes resulted in the announcement that Jane Austen would appear on the £10 note from 2017 onwards.

She was invited to speak at the WOW Festival, a part of the Cambridge Festival of Ideas, “a packed day of events that celebrate the incredible achievements of women and girls”, to be held at the Cambridge Junction on Sunday.

The Women’s Campaign wrote an open letter to the organiser of the event, describing Criado-Perez as a “totally inappropriate and offensive candidate”.

In a statement signed by the entire Women’s Campaign committee and Sarah Brown, former Cambridge City Councillor, they claimed that Criado-Perez holds views that “harm and exclude trans people, especially women”.

The Women’s Campaign allege that Criado-Perez has “persistently attacked trans people and other feminists online, including members of the Women’s Campaign”. The latter accusation stems, according to  the open letter, from an exchange on Twitter between Criado-Perez and the Campaigns Officer, Nina de Paula Hanika, over a book recommendation.

They also claim that Criado-Perez has rejected the term 'cis', a term which expresses that a person’s biological identity and gender identity are matched, i.e. not transgender. Criado-Perez is also accused of having a “dismal” record on race and having beliefs which “privilege” non-transgender women.

Criado-Perez was the subject of countless misogynistic tweets, verbal abuse and trolling during her campaign to get a woman on the currency, including death and rape threats. Criado-Perez personally received up to 50 such threats per hour and described how she “couldn’t eat or sleep” when the abuse was at its most virulent.

The Women’s Campaign, however, claim that the fact that she has faced “real and damaging online bullying … does not place her somehow above criticism”.

In an email to the Women’s Campaign obtained exclusively by Varsity, Criado-Perez described herself as “deeply hurt and saddened” by their accusations, saying that she “would never wish to hurt anyone; I only wish to liberate women from oppression”.

She also denied the allegations of transphobia levelled at her by the Women’s Campaign, claiming that she “stand[s] with trans women against the male violence that we all face”.

Criado-Perez also elaborated on her “specific objections” to the term 'cis', primarily “the need to be able to specifically address the discrimination faced by women who have been raised as girls since birth, as well the need to not present this oppression as privilege by mixing these women with their oppressor class – men, who certainly do benefit from having been born and raised as boys. I believe that cis does this by mixing "cis women" together with "cis men.""

Criado-Perez invited the Women’s Campaign to meet with her in order to identify her stance on specific issues that have “made them feel uncomfortable”. It is not clear yet whether the Women’s Campaign have accepted her offer.

The Women’s Campaign were also disappointed not to have been invited to the WOW event, describing their exclusion as “bizarre”. Committee members cited both their “pioneering schemes" and "ideas that the University gains public approval from” as reasons for their inclusion in the event.

This article was amended on Saturday 25th October to include Criado-Perez's full quote regarding the term 'cis'.