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Sheffield University professor under fire for asking if ‘transphobic lesbians’ can be ‘shaggable’

Hines has called lesbians ‘homos’

A senior University of Sheffield professor is facing criticism for a slew of tweets including one which asked if “transphobic lesbians” can be “shaggable”, an investigation by The Tab Sheffield can reveal.

Sally Hines, Chair of Sociology at the university, has been accused of homophobia and faced calls for a disciplinary probe over some of her comments on the transgender debate.

The professor of gender studies often enters into disputes online with gender-critical feminists, some of whom are lesbians, who argue women’s sex-based rights should be upheld alongside trans rights. In one such argument, Hines referred to lesbians as “lezzies” and “homos”.

Hines denies the allegations. Since The Tab Sheffield approached her for comment she has deleted at least 18 tweets and changed her account from public to private.

However, The Tab Sheffield has taken screenshots of some of the tweets she deleted. It is understood that the university instructed Hines to hide the tweets from the public eye.

Sheffield University declined to confirm whether or not they will be investigating the tweets as a violation of their social media policy, saying they do not comment on individual cases.

In one tweet in January 2019, Hines asked: “Can transphobic lesbians still be shagable? [sic]”

Hines was appointed as Chair of Sociology at the Russell Group institution in September, following her tenure as the director of the Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Studies at Leeds University.

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Her university website profile states that she teaches on subjects including “feminist theory, gender studies, identity, reproduction, sexuality studies, and transgender”.

Since she was appointed to the senior post, her tweets have intensified. In one Twitter thread on 8 November, Hines referred to lesbians as “lezzies”, “homos” and “dykes”.

Hines wrote: "James et al just love a lezzie. GCFs simply adore a sapphic. Preferably a silent one, that, you know, doesn't actually do err… lezziness. The dream is the lady-liker who calls out for masculine protection, Even better if they call themselves homo. But no dykes #cliteraferance.”

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Hines' Twitter account before and after The Sheffield Tab contacted the university

In another series of tweets, user Lily J Adams asked Hines: “Sally, pray, what is your interest in denigrating an organisation to support homosexuals.”

Hines replied: “Welly, Lily, pray, who on earth seriously calls themselves ‘homosexual’ these days?” The comment sparked a ferocious 147-comment backlash, with one user telling Hines: “I mean this is very close to being homophobic hate speech.”

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Hines, whose latest government-funded research project is titled "Trans Pregnancy", has her full academic title in her Twitter bio, and told The Sheffield Tab that “my use of Twitter is as much a personal account as a professional one”.

In one post, Hines wrote of “lesbians pretending to be homosexual”, saying: "Right wing blokes pretending to be feminists; feminists pretending to be lesbians; lesbians pretending to be homosexual. Jesus wept indeed! And *I’m* a social constructionist!!"

In another thread, she asked a Twitter user: "Dr James, pray, what is your interest in 'protecting' lesbians?"

In a Twitter conversation with gender-critical feminists on 8 November, Hines wrote simply: “#lezziewashing”. When another user questioned whether she was drunk, she replied: “I’m not drunk, I’m just excited.”

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The university’s social media policy for staff states that “You must not cause needless offence, concern or annoyance to others." It also says that the university "monitors" social media accounts of staff, partly for the purpose of "investigation of alleged misconduct".

Hines' tweets have sparked controversy online, with hundreds of Twitter users expressing shock and upset over her comments. Clare Frances wrote: “Disgusting misogyny in an attempt to denigrate women who disagree with her Imagine what she says in private.”

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Another wrote: “You did not just reduce a group of women to their fuckability did you? To do that would be offensive, reductive and the opposite of amusing or a ‘joke’.” Another commented: “The misogyny is jaw dropping.”

Sibyl Ruth called for Sheffield University to address the criticism, writing: “Comments from @sheffielduni would help.” Another user added: "Wow, I wonder if @sheffielduni know that you struggle to understand terms that describe a protected minority…".

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Hines responded to those who took offence at her "shaggable" tweet, with a mocking Twitter thread that included remarks how “one thing I have learned today… [was] that the word ‘shaggable’ (probably) has 2 gs".

Despite repeated requests, the university would not confirm whether or not it had launched an investigation into the allegations of sexism and homophobia.

In response to the tweets and allegations, Hines told The Sheffield Tab: “I would like to point out that the tweets you quote in your email are taken out of all context – in terms of the particular conversations in which they were part of and, importantly, the academic and political debates referenced here.

“Each of these relate to an area of long-standing dispute within gender and sexuality studies and politics – my comments play back to much trodden issues of debate.

“As a queer woman, whose tweets were in threads/conversations with other queer women about current debates within *our* community, accusations of homophobia are risable [sic], if not slandorous [sic].”

The University of Sheffield initially declined to give a comment, but after The Sheffield Tab warned of the backlash online, they provided one.

A spokesperson for the institution said: "The University supports the principles of academic freedom and the right for its staff to hold, challenge and rigorously debate a wide range of beliefs and positions within the law.

“The University provides guidelines on expected behaviour of staff on social media and will take action where necessary but does not comment on individual cases."