The superb film Suffragette certainly makes you think. It also made me thankful for our democracy and our freedom of speech. In one hundred years you could argue that we have come a long way – especially in the emancipation of women. However there are disturbing signs that the democracy and free speech we so take for granted are under threat.
Germaine Greer, once the young fiery feminist author of The Female Eunuch, has found herself at the centre of a free speech storm in the University of Cardiff. Greer, now 76, has been faced with demands for her to be banned from speaking at the University because of her ‘problematic and hateful’ views.
Rachel Melhuish, the Women’s Officer at Cardiff University Students Union has labeled Greer as extremely ‘transphobic’. What are these unacceptable views that Greer holds?
Greer has said, ‘I just don’t think surgery turns a man into a woman. A perfectly permissible view. I mean, an un-man is not necessarily a woman. A great many male to female transgender people do not look, sound or behave like a woman’.
This does not seem an unreasonable, unsafe or ugly example of hate speech. But according to Ms. Melhuish ‘while debate in a university should be encouraged, hosting a speaker with such problematic and hateful views towards marginalised and vulnerable groups is dangerous. Allowing Greer a platform endorses her views and by extension, the transmyogny which she continues to perpetuate.’
When ‘diversity’ equals uniformity
Meanwhile the University of Manchester, in an act worthy of Monty Python, banned two speakers from a debate on free speech. Julie Bindel another radical feminist and writer was due to speak on a debate entitled, ‘From liberation to censorship, does modern feminism have a problem with free speech?’ The union withdrew Ms. Bindel’s invitation because, 11 years ago, she had questioned the right of men who undergo gender reassignment surgery to be regarded as women.
Yes. You read that right. The university banned a feminist from speaking at a debate on free speech!
And for my third piece of evidence that we are now living in an upside-down Monty Python-esque world, let me call forth Polly Harrow. She is the Head of Safeguarding and the Prevent program at Kirklees College in Huddersfield. She was asked on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, should a Muslim who believes that homosexuality is wrong be accepted. Her chilling answer? ‘If that’s what you think and that's what you want to believe and you want to hold that in your head, that is your business and your right. But bear in mind that if you speak it out loud you might be breaking the law’.
'As Britain retreats from its Christian foundations, two of the major casualties will be truth and tolerance.'
Again… if you think something out loud (and that thing happens to go against the current trends of whoever happens to be in power) then ‘you might be breaking the law’. Clearly Ms. Harrow’s education needs broadening. I would suggest that she starts by reading George Orwell’s 1984. Thought crime and ‘Newspeak’ have finally arrived on the British scene.
The retreat of truth and tolerance
As the examples continue to multiply I find myself in the unusual situation of agreeing with what arch-atheist Richard Dawkins has tweeted about the Greer/Cardiff University fiasco. Feel free to disagree with the woman, but don’t muzzle her opinion in a setting where free speech and debate should be championed.
As someone who is quite often in the public eye I find myself often to be a recipient of this new intolerance. Kevin McKenna, a senior journalist with newspapers such as The Observer and The Guardian wrote this in the Scottish Catholic Observer.
‘Last month, I conducted an interview for the Scottish Daily Mail with the Reverend David Robertson, the outspoken but articulate Moderator of the Free Church of Scotland. For this I was condemned by some gay rights activists for promoting a man who hates gay people. The Reverend Robertson is nothing of the sort and simply believes that marriage is a civic and sacred contract entered into by a man and a woman. To hold such a position, whether you agree with it or not, is entirely reasonable. But in the world occupied by Patrick Harvie, full-time atheist and part-time Green Party leader, and his acolytes such views do not deserve even to be uttered in modern, enlightened Scotland. In the months and years ahead it won’t be tanks that are being parked on the lawns of those who oppose abortion or want to see the 24-week time limit reduced, it will be fiery crosses.’
As Britain retreats from its Christian foundations, two of the major casualties will be truth and tolerance. The ruling elites will attempt to silence opposition by mockery, abuse and ultimately by banning and force. When radical feminists are banned in the name of tolerance, and civil servants warn us not to speak what we think, what chance do radical Christians have? Unless we refuse to give into this bullying and intolerance, we will find 1984 will have occurred 30 years late.