Women talking about other women seem to be in the news a lot recently: hard on the heels of Averil Macdonald saying women don’t understand the science behind fracking (see yesterday’s post) comes Germaine Greer saying that trans-gender women are not real women: or as she put it, ‘Just because you chop your d**k off doesn’t make you a ****** woman.’
To be fair, Greer has been saying this for a long time. But now Cardiff University have decided that her views constitute ‘hate speech’ and have tried to ban her from speaking at the University.
Her remarks could best be described as forthright, downright, or, let’s face it, bloody rude. But do they constitute hate speech, or is she just expressing a point of view?
On the one hand we are all – or nearly all – in favour of free speech. On the other hand, I for one would not support what is generally called ‘giving a platform to’ racism, sexism or any other kind of prejudice. So where does one end and the other begin? Is Greer entitled to her view or should she just shut the *** up?
I’ll be honest: I can’t decide. My instinct is to say that she should be allowed to put her point of view across. But then again if she were putting across views that, say, gays and lesbians can’t really be married, how differently would I feel? Should people with prejudices be banned because of the hurt and offence they cause? Certainly if a speaker started to abuse women, I’d want them to stop. But should I?
Just this week a man known as the ‘Mad Monk of Clarendon Park’ was given a community service order for distributing homophobic leaflets. Apparently he’d been all over the country doing this and the police forces of several counties were looking for him. I was quite pleased to hear that he’d been caught and punished – but is that the best outcome? In some ways I wish that instead of just delivering leaflets he’d knocked on doors, because at least then people would have had the chance to debate with him. But nowadays it seems that when strong views come into play, respectful debate goes out of the window.
Germaine Greer has certainly not been respectful. She has a certain view but she has endeared herself to nobody in the way she’s expressed it. But I still think she should have been allowed to speak – and incidentally, so does MSO.
PS Forgot to say that TERF stands for ‘Trans-Excluding Radical Feminist’. But you knew that…