It happens every day. In fact, it is pretty hard to avoid it. There are some things that can only be understood with a slap on the forehead. Things so mind-boggling that one wonders how humans managed to evolve thumbs while being this mentally inept. Case in point:
I find people’s reactions to Bahar Mustafa’s arrest interesting. Most of her detractors did not back her arrest because it violated her rights to free speech. Most of her supporters remained silent, either baffled by her arrest, disinterested because her fifteen minutes of fame have passed, or annoyed that so many of her detractors actually stood by their principles. Then there are the feminists for whom irony appears to be a word they do not know. Enter Suzanne Moore and her article for the Guardian. In it she states:
It’s unpleasant but, on the whole, no one is mortally wounded by speech alone. Public space can be threatening. I have been attacked, raped and abused in my lifetime for just being, not for my “views”. That is part of life for many women. The war on women that sees two women killed a week is not even news – unless there are some sexy pics and gory details of how some shining girl became another bruised corpse, often at the hands of someone she knew. That’s how many women live. That’s how many trans women and women of colour live. My experience is not special; it is, sadly, normal.
So, I completely stand by Bahar Mustafa if she used a hashtag that said #killallwhitemen. She may have said other stupid stuff on Twitter – the place where women are tweeted abusive crap day in, day out. If men are seriously fearing for their lives because of this hashtag, they can surely organise a safe space. Indeed, they have; it’s called “most of the world”.
Because, as we well know, bad things never happen to men in public spaces. Men are never randomly assaulted on the street. Men are never victims of sexual violence. Men are never harassed and brutalized by the police. Men are never warehoused in prisons. Men are never the targets of racial, sexist, and homophobic violence. That more men than women are killed a week is not even news, unless when there are some sexy pics and gory details of how some shining boy became another “lucky bastard” to be raped, often at the hands of someone he knew. That how many men live, be they straight, transgender, non-white, etc. The opposite experience is special; it is, thankfully, not normal.
This is the same absurd logic that led to Mustafa banning white men from her group meeting. This is the same logic that led to the #killallwhitemen hashtag. It is not a matter of men never experiencing bad things. To the contrary, men are more likely to experience violence than women. The issue is that feminists like Mustafa and Moore think attacking men is fair game.
The problem, however, is the language they use. When they resort to saying that some group’s cannot be victims or other groups must check their privilege, because of the collective, hive-mentality of feminism, it does not take long for this idea to migrate to other areas. As Moore points out:
The latest madness on safe spaces now concerns the writer Julie Bindel who has been no-platformed by the University of Manchester’s student union. She was due to debate at the university’s Free Speech and Secular Society. The subject was “From liberation to censorship: does modern feminism have a problem with a free speech?”
Call me Wittgenstein, but as they have banned her from appearing, the answer appears to be “yes”. They have not banned Milo Yiannopoulos, Breitbart hyper-troll and a “men’s rights activist”. Maybe Milo is just going to sit there talking to himself about the rape fantasies of feminists and the mental illness of all trans people. As long as he gets a hunky bodyguard, a decent mojito and some self-promotion, he will be fine. What the students get out of this debacle, who knows?
Setting aside Moore’s ridiculous ad hominem against Yiannopoulos (who was also banned from the event), the difference with Bindel is that feminists think they can control her. She is supposed to be on their side, therefore she should do as they want. However, Bindel does not agree with many mainstream feminists when it comes to transgender women. Her view is more akin to the average social view: transgender women are really men who made themselves look like women. Bindel considers this nothing more than appropriation and mockery of femininity. Not only does she hold this position, but she is outspoken about it. Therefore, other feminists try to silence her.
The point of safe spaces is to prevent “harmful” speech from affecting the “marginalizeD” group. Moore points out that the safe-space policy is a joke:
The issue is of free speech and how this is being undermined by this safe-space policy adopted by student unions. Superficially it is about being welcoming, inclusive and stopping far right, explicitly racist, speakers. Now this policy is unthinkingly being used against someone such as Bindel who has campaigned against violence against women all her life. She is now seen as threatening as she does not adhere to the current feminist orthodoxy around trans issues and sex workers. She has repeatedly apologised for articles that have caused offence in the past.
The irony is that what happened to Bindel is the same thing that happens to scores of men and non-feminist women. Men can support a host of issues feminists also support, but if those men challenge feminist theory or reject a feminist concept or question a feminist policy, they become fair game. Sometimes just being male is enough for feminists to attack.
This is something Moore appears to consider acceptable. She does not seem to have a problem with shutting out Yiannopoulus, or people like Warren Farrell, Cathy Young, or Christina Hoff Sommers. Silencing men’s rights activists, male victims of abuse, and anyone who questions feminism also appears to be fair game. Even though in the vast majority of instances the offenses against women and feminism are imaginary or harmless, Moore seems to support safe spaces for “whoever needs them” as long as they support the right positions. Yet the moment someone supports the wrong positions, well then it is okay to ban their speech.
Moore fails to realize the irony of this position: the moment you establish that banning certain speech and ideas you oppose is fair, it takes little time before people begin to apply it to things you support. That is not a slippery-slope argument; it is a fact. We see it everyday in politics, social media, and in our relationships. Why feminists like Moore and Mustafa think that their warped views would never be turned against them is baffling. Perhaps if they read more than just feminist theory they would familiar with how the world actually works.
As for Moore’s actual reason for supporting someone like Mustafa:
College is about learning to think. What we end up with here is a man speaking and a woman banned. Free speech?
I support Bhaha Mustafa if all she did was use an offensive hashtag and make some daft tweets. I support Maryam Namazie who was banned and then unbanned for being a secular feminist who might upset Muslim students. I support Jane Fae, a trans activist who stepped down from a conference on feminism as her views were again thought “threatening”. I support Julie Bindel. I support Nimco Ali, an anti-FGM campaigner.
I support women who may offend other women and most certainly men because guess what? Feminism isn’t a safe space. It’s a space full of dangerous ideas. At least it is if we are doing it right.
So this really is not an instance of someone standing up for free speech. She does not want men who disagree with her to have a voice. This is really a matter of supporting sexist views against men.
I will give Moore credit. Most feminists seem to lack the honesty to admit that feminism is not a safe space meant for everyone. It is really is about attacking the “right” people.