Woman’s Hour: Feminists complain about feminist censorship

Feminist groupthink is now so strong that it seems that feminists are complaining about censorship — by other feminists. Or, at the very least, that was the subject of an episode of BBC Radio 4’s time-honoured programme, Woman’s Hour, aired 10am BST Friday, October 2nd, 2015. From the show notes:

Two speakers have pulled out of a feminist conference in protest after campaigner Jane Fae withdrew saying she was effectively being silenced because she had written about pornography. Is this evidence of increasing intolerance and efforts to actively censor views which might offend?

This episode was hosted by Woman’s Hour‘s primary host Jenni Murray (who, I am given to understand, is a radical feminist with no love for the likes of Erin Pizzey, or anybody who doesn’t toe the line on the gendered basis for DV). She introduced the programme with the following (square brackets indicate annotations by me):

Now there’ve been a number of incidents over recent weeks which rather smack — of censorship. First the Iranian activist, Maryam Namazie, was told she was banned from speaking at Warwick University because of fears she might incite hatred against Muslim students. She’d been booked to talk about secularism; the ban against her has now been lifted. But then, this week, two speakers have pulled out of the Feminism in London conference to be held this month. Julie Bindel [a radical lesbian feminist] and Caroline Criado-Perez [she of the Women on banknotes fiasco (complete with twitter rape threats etc)] are protesting against the withdrawal from the conference of Jane Fae. She’s a transgender campaigner who isn’t in favour of pornography, but has expressed a view that it need not be regulated. She withdrew because she felt her views were not welcomed by some of the people who would attend the conference. So, are we facing a creeping intolerance of views which may offend?

I’m not going to offer a full transcript of the 13 minute 25 segment; you can listen to it (links below), but I will say that I find feminist complaints about censorship to ring hollow at best, and an indictment of modern feminism at worst. (And not the only one; on the same day this piece aired, I published a piece arguing that feminism is in deep trouble if it has become so extreme that genuine feminism can’t readily be distinguished from satire.)

For the record, I (and AVfM) are fully in support of trans* people (who, after all, either were or now are men, and therefore deserve a voice at A Voice for Men) even if AVfM’s focus is men’s issues — all men, not just men like us — rather than GLBT issues, so the criticism that follows of Ms Fae’s remarks is strictly directed at what she said, not who she is.

Ms Fae said that she was there to speak about speech, in particular, from a “Catharine McKinnonite” point of view (namely, that “[Fae doesn’t] totally favour free speech”) and

about safe spaces; I believe that one of the greatest threats, that one of the most unsafe spaces for women nowadays is on-line, and I think it’s time we policed that more.

How ironic that Ms Fae should complain about being muzzled, silenced or, dare I say it, censored and, at the very least, made to feel unwelcome, when she, herself, wishes to police the thought and speech of other people (for which, read: you and I). And she should know better: the trans* community really do get a hard time of it on-line, and from many directions are often made unwelcome or, indeed, banned outright — for no reason other than being trans*.

Why, then, does Ms Fae think it’s okay to police what others say on-line? Can it be “one rule for me and another rule for thee?”

Side note: Though MHRAs oft deride the now cliché and abused concept “safe space,” it is an idea with merit. AVfM, after all, is a “safe space” for men (after a fashion, because we don’t let feelings rule the roost). Likewise, trans* people and women deserve their own spaces with their own rules, but I can’t help but think that the likes of Ms Fae want to regulate the speech of others on the basis that others’ right to free speech ends where her feelings (and those of her colleagues) begin. Am I worrying about nothing? I surely hope so but, if not, then Ms Fae is not walking her talk.

She went on to say that

It would have been grotesque for me to be on a platform, talking about the need for safe spaces whilst the question of me being unsafe [by virtue of being trans] was on the agenda.

[…]

there is a sort of absolutism in politics today, and it happens in feminism, it happens within the trans community, it happens within the Greens, within the Corbynistas [reference to the ultra-socialist (even by British standards) newly elected leader of the UK Labour party and his hangers on], which is that you have to toe a party line, […] the most unsafe spaces for women, generally, are out in the street, in the home [despite Government statistics indicating that men are 64% more likely (2.3% over 1.4%) to be the victim of violent crime], on-line…

Well, she’s right about the absolutism and the echo-chamber that is modern feminism, but in classic feminist double-think, she then goes on to argue that women need special protection (whatever form that may take) on the grounds of an ideologically driven presumption of women’s vulnerability instead of, oh, I don’t know, real data.

Ms Murray mentioned “no-platforming” and admitted that this is an expression that has become common, where you “stop someone appearing on a platform.” Such expressions don’t come about for no reason, which is about as much of a direct admission by your old-school, hard-line feminist that feminists do, indeed, deliberately set about silencing those who (according to them) ought not speak.

Hey, progress!

Later, Ms Criado-Perez gave, for the reason she stepped down from the conference, the following:

I stepped down because I’m concerned about the same things that Jane has just articulated. I’m really concerned about ideological total[itarian]ism that we’re seeing increasingly; this idea of “purity politics” which means that there is one.. dogma, and if you have ever stepped outside of that dogma, then you are tainted and you are impure and you cannot be allowed to speak, and your very presence, even if you’re not talking about the things that don’t toe the party line, your very presence can cause trauma in people.

And I just think that this is a really really dangerous place to be; I mean, one of the things that’s really struck me about the Warwick [University] incident was one of the things that they used against Maryam [Namazie] was the fact that blogs had been written about her, things had been said about her, so it wasn’t even things that she’d said; we’ve now moved onto the idea of hearsay, and the idea of people objecting to you is itself proof that you are a problem.

Golly. Is this an actual feminist, admitting that hearsay, lies and objections by third parties are no basis on which to form an opinion of somebody or their ideas? Stop the press! Ms Criado-Perez is in danger of becoming an MRA! (in all but name and direction, anyway.)

Ladies, er, feminists, how does it feel to be on the receiving end of what you’ve been dishing out to men and MHRAs (examples: the Fiamengo, Farrell, Nathanson & Young lectures, and our own ICMI ’14) since 1848?

I’ll let that settle for a few moments. Now I’ll repeat, as I so often do: The solution to bad speech is more speech, not censorship. Now, your own colleagues are telling you to wake up and up your game.

To continue, Ms Murray then asked how damaging Ms Criado-Perez thought all of this was for the feminist movement. Criado-Perez replied:

I think it’s incredibly damaging. […] we’re getting increasingly a feminism where there are factions who cannot speak to each other, and the ridiculous thing is that, on the vast majority of issues, we agree with each other, and even where we don’t agree with each other, I think we have a common purpose which is we’re trying to make life better for women.

We might just disagree how to do that, and the idea that because I disagree with how to, for example, make it safer for women who end up having to sell sex, if I disagree with how to deal with that compared to someone else, even though our common purpose is to make it safer, that that somehow will make someone unsafe. Another example, which I felt really paralleled what happened to Jane, was Kate Smurthwaite, the feminist commedienne, who was effectively “no-platformed” from Goldsmith’s student union, again, she wasn’t going to be talking about prostitution, she was going to be talking about free speech (ironically, rather like Jane) but because of her previously voiced support for the Nordic model of policing prostitution (which is criminalising buyers and decriminalising women [note ‘buyers’ vs ‘women’, as if ‘buyers’ are somehow less-than-human]), she was deemed “unsafe” […]

It’s just such a bizarre thing, and I think it has to come from this idea of an ideological total[itarian]ism that you can only be safe in a world where everybody 100% agrees with you.

Yes, Ms Criado-Perez, it is damaging, very damaging indeed, both for feminism and, more importantly, to women and society at large. I would like to think that your colleagues might learn something from this, but all experience would suggest that ideology comes first and only then, if there’s any room left, is there time for civilised disagreement.

That last sentence is particularly telling: though she never made it explicit, something tells me that this latitude extends only to other feminists, not to those (like us) who have a completely different message and narrative to offer. That’s hypocrisy, ladies, but feminists are no stranger to that.


There is a good deal more to this interview, which you can listen to below. One subject in particular that was touched on was this notion of ‘no-platforming’ other women, and the ‘dishonesty’ (their word) of pretending that that’s not what was happening. There was an acknowledgement that this practice is bad and also of some guilty pretence that, really, something else is going on.

There was also some discussion of the importance of having a voice, and also of voices having been suppressed in the past and the anger that that engenders (though no particular solutions or commentary was passed on that anger, or how it might best be channelled and vented). Well, men have been denied any real voice for decades, if not centuries. Dare I say it, but it was not until A Voice for Men gained prominence that men finally found an avenue where their voices could be heard. To this day, we welcome article submissions from any man or woman who has something worthwhile to say about the condition and welfare of men and boys in the 21st Century — and we always will.

There was also (I think) a quite prescient observation about impassioned belief creating philosophical blinders, in which there can be only one truth (and, by extension, there being no room for anybody who disagrees with that truth). Though they agreed that we don’t live in such a black-and-white world again, I somehow doubt they’d apply that agreement outside of their feminist colleagues.

Yes, ladies, there is much in the comparison between fundamentalism (of any sort) and much of modern feminist discourse. And yes, ladies, there is a time for you to stand back and listen to the lived experiences (your term) of men, as well as women.

Feminists, listen to your own, and quit the pretence that you own intersexual and gender relations dialogue. You don’t monopolise it within your community, much less without.


Listen for yourself (original BBC link)

For those for whom that doesn’t work, or who want to download the cutting of this specific segment, there is a version hosted on one of AVfM’s own servers (posted on the basis of fair use for criticism and commentary). If you can, please use the above link in preference to the player below.

 


Addendum

From time to time, one or two MRAs are given to making weak remarks about the alleged censorship practised by AVfM. I want to make one, very strong observation about this:

If you get banned from Disqus comments or from the forums, that is AVfM saying, “We don’t want what you just did here, in our house.” But we would not stop you (even if we could) from saying what you like elsewhere on a platform you own or another more sympathetic to your views.

Please do not let the fact that, in our house, we set the rules, distract from the sort of censorship practised by feminists: they want to tell you want you may and mayn’t do in your own house as well as their own.

Yes, there are a few topics that are forbidden on our pages, but they are few in number, and there is a very good reason behind each case.

Moderators, feel free to enforce the comment policy with regard to derailment at your pleasure.

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