Radical feminist Julie Bindel and rightwing commentator Milo Yiannopoulos have been banned from speaking at a Manchester Students’ Union debate on free speech.
They were due to debate at an event being held by the Free Speech and Secular Society – titled ‘From liberation to censorship: does modern feminism have a problem with free speech?’ – the irony of which has not gone unnoticed by critics.
However, the president of the society, Leonardo Carella does not believe the reaction of the union answers the question posed by the debate.
He said: “The student union does not speak for all feminists.”
It’s clear that the invited speakers are extremely divisive in their opinions.
Bindel has angered feminists with her views on transgender people
She wrote, in a 2004 article for the Guardian: “I don’t have a problem with men disposing of their genitals, but it does not make them women.”
However she has since apologised for some of her statements.
Yiannopoulos is notorious for his anti-feminist views and published an article last year called ‘Transgenderism is a psychiatric disorder: Its sufferers need therapy, not surgery’.
When it comes to the union’s controversial decision to ‘no-platform’ the speakers, Leonardo feels his society has been ‘bullied’
He told MM: “We’re a small society, we are not particularly influential within the student union and they thought they could bully us.
“I think this is mollycoddling from the student union and it’s been going on for too long.
“They don’t regard the fact that there is a serious difference in opinion within the student body.
“I think that fundamentally it comes down to the idea that they put safe spaces above free speech, and we put free speech above safe spaces.”
Student unions across the UK have come under fire recently for being quick to ban anything that could fall foul of a safe space policy, from ‘Blurred Lines’ to Dapper Laughs.
The past couple of years have seen tighter restrictions placed on what is acceptable on university campuses.
Many people regard this as inclusive, and argue that it allows all students to feel safe on campus.
However others believe that freedom of expression, challenging debate and exposure to different ideas are central to university life.
When challenged on whether the planned debate should have included a speaker with more balanced views, Leonardo said that he had been in ongoing talks to include speakers from the feminist society, but plans fell through.
MM contacted the Student Union’s Women’s Officer and the Feminist Society for comment, but they declined due to legal reasons and the threat of online abuse.
The Manchester Student’s Union have released a statement detailing their objection to the speakers.
They declined to accept Bindel as a speaker based on her ‘views and comments towards trans* people, which they believe could incite hatred towards and exclusion of our trans* students.’
They later amended the statement to include Yiannopoulos, saying: “We have been made aware of various comments lambasting rape survivors and trans people, and as such we are concerned for the safety of our students on the topic of this event.
“He is a rape apologist and has repeatedly used derogatory and debasing ableist language when describing members of the trans community.
The full statement can be viewed here.
Images courtesy of META Magazine and Milo Yiannopoulos, via YouTube, with thanks.