No Platforming by the female eunuchs

October 27, 2015 at 7:25 am (censorship, Feminism, Free Speech, Rosie B)

Germaine Greer has said some unforgivable things in the past eg about FGM.  But she is a great woman, a splendid writer, a courageous human being and in her time was an inspiring feminist.  Trans activists’ attacks on her are gross.

Here’s an excellent piece on the issue.

Pop feminism has willfully abandoned political analysis for the feel-good factor of disposable aphorisms. See for example Laurie Penny (@pennyred) who recently performed the ultimate no risk “coming-out” of announcing she’s a femme-presenting, female-assigned at birth, no-transition “genderqueer” . . . which is the LGBT equivalent of claiming one retroactively looooved punk rock before it was mainstream.

And to prove her gendercred to her fans, she’s been eager to defend Caitlyn Jenner’s perpetual womanhood — that Bruce was female when winning the decathlon. Egregiously, Penny backs this up with the usual cut-and-paste misinterpretation of Simone de Beauvoir.

I’ll say it again: Beauvoir is spinning in her tomb over the intellectually dishonest, quote-mined appropriation of her life’s work. It is simply wrong that Beauvoir means “one … becomes a woman” as an endorsement of gender/femininity as empowering to female persons. It is embarrassingly clear that Penny, and her cadre of  retweeters, hasn’t actually bothered to give Beauvoir the decency of a good read.

Laurie Penny, always modish, always wrong.  It’s startling to be told you are “a femme-presenting, female-assigned at birth, no-transition” creature when you’d always described yourself as a “girl” or “woman”.


  1. nothingiseverlost said,

    Running this kind of shit while being completely silent on SOAS and Bahar Mustafa? Fucking embarrassing.

    • Jim Denham said,

      We don’t comment on every single issue that comes up. Not sure what point you’re trying to make, nothing …

      • nothingiseverlost said,

        Apart from the use of “female eunuchs”, presumably as a slur for trans people, I just get really annoyed by the kind of sloppy thinking around “free speech” that sees someone saying they disagree with someone, even if they say it in vitriolic terms, as being equivalent to a genuine attack on free speech. Any serious analysis that actually looks at the context would have to admit that there’s no way someone like Greer, with a high-profile platform in the media that’s not going away any time soon, could ever really be “silenced” or “no platformed” by trans activists and/or trans-inclusive feminists.
        That kind of silliness would be embarrassing at any time, but it’s especially glaring when we’re seeing actual, real threats to free speech in the forms of the charges against Bahar Mustafa and the suspension of Sandy Nicholl, both of which are real examples of what actual silencing looks like. I expect liberals to operate with this kind of total blindness about what power is and how it works, but I would like to be able to expect better of socialists.

  2. Jim Denham said,

    ” I just get really annoyed by the kind of sloppy thinking around “free speech” that sees someone saying they disagree with someone, even if they say it in vitriolic terms, as being equivalent to a genuine attack on free speech”: so was there, or was there not, an attempt to *ban* Greer from speaking, nothing?

  3. kb72 said,

    I wrote the original piece and FWIW I think Mustafa is an inane idiot but having the rozzers on her is ridiculous.

    There was a petition to get Greer disinvited. That is an attack on free speech. It’s not at Saudi Arabia levels – but it shows what a lot of intolerant little jumped up tossers will do with what powers they have. That includes Mustafa who has no concept of free speech at all.

  4. Steven Johnston said,

    Well I would not want to take away anyones right to form or sign a petition to stop a speaker, I believe they are counter-productive & I would not sign one. They should allow her to come, to speak and to debate. That is surely the correct way to destroy any idea you don’t agree with.

  5. Steven Johnston said,

    Not quite sure that even if they managed to stop her speaking it would amount to an attack on free speech. As with Greer, although she’s probably had her day, her problem was that she never shut up! Joking aside, I’m sure there are plenty of other “routes” available to her. If it was petition to ban her from publicly speaking/publishing anywhere then that would be different. But in this age of the internet, where Greer has her own site, is it possible to take away her right to free speech?

    • kb72 said,

      It’s not just her speaking, it’s people who’d like to listen to her. If I knew GG was speaking in a venue near me I’d go to hear her. I’d be furious if I was denied this right by a bunch of petitioners and a craven university. Also, she isn’t even talking about transgender but feminism in general – and I’d recommend any young feminists see an old war-horse of considerable historical importance while they’ve got the chance.

      • Steven Johnston said,

        Fair point, she is very entertaining. Not my cup of tea as I socialist it’s all about class and not gender. But, you are correct in that it’s about those who want to listen to her too that matter.

  6. kb72 said,

    Charges have been dropped against Mustafa, which is how it should be. Some people were taking her #killallwhitemen as incitement to violence, but as Kenan Malik said, you should be able to tell the difference between inanity and incitement. It’s crappy that stupid Tweets are reported to the police, and that the police follow this sort of rubbish up.

    “Bahar Mustafa, the Goldsmiths student diversity officer who was due to appear in court after allegedly tweeting the hashtag #killallwhitemen, has had charges against her dropped.

    The 28-year-old from Edmonton, north-east London, was to appear at Bromley magistrates court on Thursday charged with sending a communication conveying a threatening message and with sending a grossly offensive message via a public communication network.

    Police confirmed to the Guardian on Tuesday that the case had been discontinued. The charges had been widely criticised by free-speech groups in a social media campaign using the hashtag #istandwithbaharmustafa when the charges were announced last month.”

  7. nothingiseverlost said,

    If you think some people saying Germaine Greer shouldn’t get to speak at Cardiff University is a serious threat to free speech, then I’ve got some more bad news for you: I’ve never been invited to speak at Cardiff University in the first place. If we regard being invited to speak at Cardiff University as a basic human right, then my free speech and yours are being seriously violated right now at this very moment. Also, I trust you’ll be inviting some trans activists to pen a lengthy, hate-filled denunciation of Greer to be published on this very blog: if there’s a moral obligation for everyone to provide a platform for everyone all the time, that surely applies to this space just as much as it applies to Cardiff University.
    Even thinking about the title of this piece exposes how asinine the idea is (leaving aside the dog-whistle transphobic slur in the title): “I’m being silenced!” Greer exclaims on Newsnight, “no-one will give me a platform!” It’s self-evidently absurd.
    Anyway, a much better article on the subject from one of the last times this same controversy was rolled out:
    “There is a desire for evidence “that feminist arguments critical of the sex industry and of some demands made by trans activists are being censored.” As such the explanation of the cancellation seems to be in the end what the cancellation was about: the desire for more evidence of the stifling of debate and the censoring of some critical feminist views. These views then get expressed again as if they are being stifled. They get repeated by being presented as prohibited.

    Whenever people keep being given a platform to say they have no platform, or whenever people speak endlessly about being silenced, you not only have a performative contradiction; you are witnessing a mechanism of power… The narrative of “being silenced” has become a mechanism for enabling and distributing some forms of expression. Indeed I would even argue that the narrative of being silenced from speaking has become an incitement to speak: it incites the very thing it claims is being stopped.”

  8. kb72 said,

    Greer was invited then a bunch of losers signed a petition asking the university authorities to forbid her from speaking there. So that is not the same as not being invited in the first place. If I was at Cardiff University & wanted to hear Greer – and I would – I’d say that not only were the petitioners censoring Greer, they are also preventing me from hearing her.

    “if there’s a moral obligation for everyone to provide a platform for everyone all the time, that surely applies to this space just as much as it applies to Cardiff University.”

    You really seem to be missing the point. One group invites Greer to Cardiff University. She didn’t announce, I demand that Cardiff University and every University in the land have me as a speaker. So “everyone to provide a platform for everyone all the time” is a straw man.

    I didn’t say it was a serious threat to free speech, but it is part of a pattern where speakers, especially feminist speakers, have had pressure brought on them to be disinvited because some of their views are deemed to make them unacceptable. I find this running to some kind of authority to say, oh please don’t let her speak, she said something horrible once, pathetic. It’s a general tedious censoriousness that seems to have taken over university students of late.

    Your last two paragraphs are convoluted. However, I read it that those that are no platformed can make a big thing about being no platformed and draw attention to their views. If that’s the case, couldn’t this cunning scheme of theirs be thwarted by ceasing to petition them to be no platformed? Then there would be no attention drawn to them. I certainly would not have heard of GG speaking or not speaking at Cardiff if it hadn’t been for that petition. So the petitioners have unwittingly aided and abetted these cunning schemers and the dissemination of their views.

  9. kb72 said,

    “f we regard being invited to speak at Cardiff University as a basic human right, then my free speech and yours are being seriously violated right now at this very moment. Also, I trust you’ll be inviting some trans activists to pen a lengthy, hate-filled denunciation of Greer to be published on this very blog: if there’s a moral obligation for everyone to provide a platform for everyone all the time, that surely applies to this space just as much as it applies to Cardiff University.”

    If a publisher announced that they were going to bring out, say, The Satanic Verses, and a bunch of people held demos and burned things and demand the authorities take action that would be an attempt at censorship. The same publisher would not be morally obliged to publish illiterate diatribes by the demo-holders and burners nor would they be obliged to publish you and me. So your “basic human right” is a straw man of haystack proportions.

    • Jim Denham said,

      nothing: you seem to be either a bit thick, or wilfully choosing to miss the point …

    • nothingiseverlost said,

      Apples and oranges, mate. Where is the “demand the authorities take action” here? Or, for that matter, the burning things? The more accurate comparison here would be “If a publisher announced that they were going to bring out, say, The Satanic Verses, and a bunch of people wrote a petition asking them to reconsider”. Which might be an attempt at censorship, but would also, crucially, be an excercise of their free speech. The important thing is that there is a difference, not of degree but of kind, between asking someone to do something or not do something (host Greer/don’t host her/publish a book/don’t publish it), and asking the state to intervene and take action (as in your made-up Rushdie example, or the Mustafa case until the charges were dropped). The first is having a conversation, which is a pretty vital part of free speech, the second is asking for coercive action. That’s where threats to free speech start, and because it’s an important principle it’s important to not cry wolf about it. (I’d also include employers taking disciplinary action against employees for saying stuff, as in the current SOAS case, in the second category, but that’s a whole other conversation.)

  10. kb72 said,

    Julie Blindel and someone from Index on Censorship on Radio 3’s Free Thinkers. From 30 on. How this has not hurt her career, but that young feminists could be put off by the kind of shit feminists have to be put through by the identifiarians.

    • Steven Johnston said,

      Feminists may be put off? So some good will come of the ban then!

  11. nothingiseverlost said,

    ^ that’s it. That’s precisely my fucking point. Julie Bindel on Radio 3. Precisely. The entire point here is that these venues we’re talking about – Radio 3, Newsnight, Cardiff University – are not some abstract, neutral zones of “free speech” as you seem to imagine, they’re privileged platforms that are only ever available to certain select members of the academic/media bubble, and that’s why it’s ridiculous to give a shit about whether the likes of Greer and Bindel get to preach their bigotry at Cardiff University, or if they’re restricted to having to just go on Newsnight and Radio 3 every time they want to have their voice amplified by a platform hundreds of times more powerful than anything the likes of you or I will ever get to use. The trans and non-binary workers and benefit claimants I’ve known are all people who’ve been no-platformed a thousand times more effectively than the likes of Greer or Bindel will ever be, simply by not belonging to that small bubble of specialist opinion-havers who get to speak at Cardiff University/Newsnight/Radio 3.

    • Jim Denham said,

      Free speech is indivisible: you’re either for it or you’re not (the objection to fascists and a very few others who advocate violence against people on grounds of race, gender, etc, is nothing to do with free speech, but to do with security and self-defence).

      By denying (or seeking to deny) non-fascists a platform at a university or students union, you are proclaiming the fact that you are against free speech. The fact that a given individual may have access to other platforms is completely, utterly and entirely irrelevant and beside the point. You, nothing, are colluding in the miseducation of young people on this elementary matter of principle.

      • Steven Johnston said,

        Totally agree, as Nick Cohen said, if you can’t defeat the fascists by arguement, then make way for someone who can. The irony of the anti-fascists is laughable. By denying the fascists a platform they think they are defending free speech and democracy.
        Greer should be allowed to speak, she’s a has-been who is probably saying something controversial to revive her career. Though all she has ever done is be herself. All that has happened is she’s been giving a shed-load of free publicity.

      • nothingiseverlost said,

        So, if I get that spittle-flecked 5000-word rant about how Germaine Greer is full of shit typed up and sent to you, you’ll publish it as an article on here, right? After all, free speech is indivisible, and any time anyone doensn’t give anyone a platform for any reason, they’re proclaiming that they’re against free speech. By your standards, since I’m not a fascist, you’re bound to provide a platform for me.
        Or we could take a more sensible view: you, me, feminist students at Cardiff University and Germaine Greer are all free to say whatever we want, and shouldn’t be stopped from saying things (and I’ve never said anywhere that Greer should be stopped from saying things), but you have no obligation to publish articles by me that you think are daft, and Cardiff students have no obligation to use their resources to amplify the voice of a transphobe.

      • Jim Denham said,

        You are using a completely false argument: this blog, as all readers know, is under editorial control; it is not a de facto public space like a Uni or SU (yes, I know that SUs are strictly members’ clubs, but for students they are public spaces). The people who want to ban Greer (as far as can be judged) believe that her views should simply not be heard – anywhere. By indulging them, people like you, nothing, are miseducating them.

        Btw if you get ” that spittle-flecked 5000-word rant about how Germaine Greer is full of shit typed up and sent” we’ll happily publish it (or a link to it) in BTL comments.

  12. nothingiseverlost said,

    But really, I can’t stress this enough: go back and read “You are oppressing us!”: and “Against Students” for good measure: Think about them. There’s a lot there that’s worth reflecting on.

  13. Steven Johnston said,

    But nobody is forcing the students to attend the lecture! They are not going to be marched in at gunpoint. But I do take your point, if I ran a pub and a BNP man came in and said “can I use the room above your pub to hold my meetings?”. I would say no, I don’t know if that is me denying their free speech.

    • kb72 said,

      Your pub, your rules. Our blog, our rules. Cardiff University is a more complicated entity than that.

      • nothingiseverlost said,

        I think we’ve hit on the essence of the disagreement here (at last). The university is somewhere that students are encouraged to think of as somewhere that they’re part of an academic community and get to have a say in the decisions made by “their” institution. Personally, I think this stuff is largely marketing and that it’s a top-down corporate space not fundamentally different to any other business, but to the extent that students think of themselves as being part of said academic community, they are going to want to have a democratic say in those decisions.

  14. Political Tourist said,

    SJ, tell me you didn’t mean your into class politics before gender.
    How very 20th century of you.
    Onwards to the Revolution.
    Women’s Right, Gay Rights, all kind of rights.
    Don’t you worry the revolution will be along shortly.
    Hold on there comrade, the effin revolution isn’t coming shortly and these issues can be dealt with now.
    Sadly when it came to a host of social issues the left had a bad rap historically.

    • Steven Johnston said,

      20th century? I thought I was still stuck in the 19th century.
      Yep, I believe in socialism and nothing but. The revolution will never come if we are stuck on a reformist path. You can have thousands of reforms but they will never resolve the contradictions of capitalism. Which is the whole point of socialism.

    • Glasgow Working Class said,

  15. Political Tourist said,

    Hand it to parts of the left, they shout reformist but take the reform others fought for.

    • Glasgow Working Class said,

      Scratch yer baws Nar si.

      • Political Tourist said,

        Sure you’d know all about that being pro German.
        Most Rangers fans are Huns, correct.

    • Glasgow Working Class said,

      Pt, what are you rabbiting on about you Nat si prick.

  16. Jim Denham said,

    • Steven Johnston said,

      “In every conflict there are two sides, and at UCLU we want to avoid taking sides in conflicts.”

      Blimey! There are two sides to almost everything in life. That means you can’t have anyone speaking at the university.
      As for their point about the fear that him speaking might lead someone else joining, that is the most pathetic fig-leaf I’ve ever come across.

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