DEATH OF FREE SPEECH; as Germaine Greer Is Branded 'Transphobic' by Student Feminists Whose Trail She Blazed, a Top Academic Attacks the Self-Righteous Zealots Censoring History and Literature and Crushing Debate in Our Universities; SATURDAY ESSAY

Daily Mail (London), October 31, 2015 | Go to article overview

DEATH OF FREE SPEECH; as Germaine Greer Is Branded 'Transphobic' by Student Feminists Whose Trail She Blazed, a Top Academic Attacks the Self-Righteous Zealots Censoring History and Literature and Crushing Debate in Our Universities; SATURDAY ESSAY


Byline: Professor Frank Furedi

GERMAINE GREER has spent a lifetime courting controversy in her relentless and often provocative battle to advance women's rights but now it is the high priestess of feminism herself who has been accused of betraying women.

Greer said she was pulling out of giving a lecture at Cardiff University after female students there branded her 'transphobic', and lobbied for her to be banned.

What had the 76-year-old professor done to warrant this fury?

She had once expressed the opinion that even if a man had himself castrated, he would not look, sound or behave like a woman. She also said that 'a great many women' think 'male to female transgender people' do not 'look like, sound like or behave like women'.

This extraordinary saga was the second time in the past fortnight that the febrile gender politics of modern campuses have led to feminist activists making headlines. Two weeks ago, Oxford student Annie Teriba, a high-profile advocate of black and gay rights, saw her reputation as militant lesbian campaigner shattered by an explosive controversy over her public admission that she had engaged in sex that was 'not consensual'.

For a strident activist who built her name fulminating about sexual aggression against women, it was a devastating confession, made worse when other feminists accused her of dishonesty about the real nature of the incident.

The Women's Campaign of the Oxford University Students' Union even claimed (using the kind of opaque language such people employ) that her statement was 'rife with rape apologism' because she had been equivocal in her description of what had taken place.

These sagas highlighted the increasingly totalitarian attitudes on our university campuses: the bullying dressed up as tolerance, the obsession with political correctness and 'identity', the pretentious, overblown language, and the eagerness to portray as many as possible as victims.

HOW bitterly ironic that this pernicious culture has led to Germaine Greer, who has dedicated her academic life to fighting for women's voices to be heard in society, having her voice silenced by feminist students.

This new censorship is spreading like a cancer across British universities, imposing ever more heavy-handed restrictions on what can be read or said. C.S. Lewis once wrote: 'Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies.'

That is a good description of what is now happening in parts of our academic system, for the censorship is increasingly imposed in the name of keeping students safe, and guarding them from anything that might possibly offend what are regarded as their vulnerable minds.

Potentially, the results to society as a whole are profoundly dangerous. Whereas Britain's liberal democracy once allowed for -- even encouraged -- the open exchange of thoughts and ideas, this new dogma demands only the narrowest world view, and nothing less than the suppression of free speech. It is a movement that can be seen to operate through two distinct processes.

One is the campaigners' claim that universities should be socalled 'safe spaces'; free from any views that students might consider offensive.

For example, in attacking the forthright lesbian activist Ms Teriba, her Oxford feminist critics argued that it is vital to expel 'abusers, and those who enable them, from spaces that should be safe for all'.

This attitude leads to bans being imposed on speakers who are deemed to have contravened, through their views, past statements or some other arbitrary factors, the current code of politically correct behaviour. As a result, student bodies have become the new Cromwellians, rooting out anyone regarded as a heretical thinker against the new credo. …

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DEATH OF FREE SPEECH; as Germaine Greer Is Branded 'Transphobic' by Student Feminists Whose Trail She Blazed, a Top Academic Attacks the Self-Righteous Zealots Censoring History and Literature and Crushing Debate in Our Universities; SATURDAY ESSAY
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