There is a new example of how free speech values are declining in England, particularly on college campuses this week. Students at Cardiff University launched an online petition trying to bar Germaine Greer, the Australian feminist author, from speaking at the school next month because of her views on transgender women. Rather than recognize that Greer has an opinion to share as part of the pluralistic academic forum, these students sought to bar her from sharing her views and engaging in a debate in the area. To its credit, the university has thus far stayed committed to free speech and refuses to bar Greer.
Rachael Melhuish, women’s officer at the Cardiff University Students’ Union, is reportedly the architect of the petition, which denounces how Greer has “demonstrated time and time again her misogynistic views towards trans women, including continually ‘misgendering’ trans women and denying the existence of transphobia altogether.”
England has seen the rise of calls for speech prosecutions, including this month. We have previously discussed the alarming rollback on free speech rights in the West, particularly in England ( here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here).
As we have seen in France and the United States, there is a distressing trend among students in becoming agents for censorship and intolerance of rivaling views. Once the defenders of free speech, college students now often treat the censorship of opposing views as an article of faith.
The controversy over Greer is a good example. Some 880 students signed a petition to bar Greer, 76, who wrote “The Female Eunuch.” The book is viewed as one of the classic feminist works and attacks “traditional” suburban, consumerist, nuclear family” values that Greer views as repressive for women. I do not agree with many of Greer’s views but she is a provocative and passionate voice to bring to a campus. Critics however cite a 2009 column in which Greer describes transgender women as mere parodies of women and reflecting “a man’s delusion that he is female.” She is also quoted as telling the Varsity, Cambridge University’s student newspaper, that transgender women do not know what it is like to have a vagina.
Greer correctly questions the basis for barring someone from speaking solely because you disagree with their values or arguments. She objected that “[w]hat they are saying is that because I don’t think surgery will turn a man into a woman I should not be allowed to speak anywhere. . . . That happens to be an opinion.”
The effort to ban Greer from the university is no noble act. It is actively seeking to prevent other students from hearing the views of a controversial figure. While some of us may disagree with Greer on many of her views, she is unquestionably one of the most influential figures in the area. Barring her is little different from maintaining a speech code at Cardiff.
Source: NY Times