More Feminist Fascism in Academia: Ban Debate on Abortion
Two male journalists, one conservative and one contrarian, were to debate abortion at Oxford University earlier this week. The event was sponsored by a student pro-life group and had all the ingredients to provoke an impassioned campus protest: two men, both right-leaning, debating an issue not often debated in England. And what do they know about terminating a pregnancy anyway?
It’s a fair question, one that could have been put to either journalist in a spirited debate (the very thing we expect to happen within the walls of a university). Or better yet, instead of wasting an evening listening to two men do battle over who controls a woman’s uterus, the aggrieved, pro-choice student could have simply skipped the event altogether.
But for those who were offended that someone with a penis might discuss abortion at all, opting to skip the event wasn’t enough. After the student union Women’s Campaign (WomCam) urged the Oxford Students of Life to cancel the event and demanded an apology for attempting to stage the debate, the university called it off entirely, a move critics slammed as a grave restriction of free speech.
After the event was canceled, in a spasm of alarming anti-intellectualism and illiberalism, Niamh McIntyre, a female student at Oxford, wrote in The Independent, “The idea that in a free society absolutely everything should be open to debate has a detrimental effect on marginalized groups.”
She insisted that she “did not stifle free speech” in calling for the event’s cancellation. (Only school administrators have the power to enact censorship, after all.) “As a student, I asserted that [the debate] would make me feel threatened in my own university; as a woman, I objected to men telling me what I should be allowed to do with my own body.”Of course, a segregationist apartment owner who does not want to rent to blacks could ask “who are you folks to tell me what I can do with my property?” And a gun owner could ask “who are you liberals to tell me that I can’t own a gun?”
It’s safe to say that, in the United Kingdom especially (where only seven percent want a total ban on abortion), most women object to men telling them how the law should govern their bodies, particularly when it comes to reproductive rights. But that doesn’t mean men, whether or not their ideas are “offensive” or ill-informed, should be denied the right to argue their case.This is a terribly revealing statement. Feminists have managed to exploit the “spiral of silence” to cow dissenting views. Of course, when dissenting views are voiced, it is necessary to move quickly to attack and vilify those who voice them, else the process breaks down, and people begin to feel free to dissent. This, in fact, is what we experienced when we called out a Philosophy instructor who said that gay marriage could not be discussed in her class since any gay students would be offended by any opposition to the policy.
According to McIntyre, “Debating abortion as if it’s a topic to be mulled over and hypothesized on ignores the fact that this is not an abstract, academic issue.” But her real argument is that only those directly affected by abortion (women) can participate in an ethical debate on the subject. (While we’re at it, are there topics that only men can debate?) And McIntyre’s argument could be made by both sides—or anyone so sure of their position that they no longer believe it a subject to be “mulled over or hypothesized on.”
The Oxford abortion controversy is the latest example of an increasingly common instinct among certain feminists to argue that certain subjects and certain arguments are either off limits or simply not up for debate.
Take feminist writer Jessica Valenti. Responding to a Sunday New York Times column arguing that new affirmative consent laws are too broad and difficult to enforce, Valenti denounced its author, Yale Law School professor Jed Rubenfeld, as a “rape apologist.”
The core of Rubenfeld’s piece—that universities should not be responsible for adjudicating rape charges and that “yes mean yes” policies are deficient—has been cogently argued by legal experts and social scientists, and in turn provoked many cogent counter-arguments.
Sure, Rubenfeld makes some controversial points, like his claim that the “redefinition of consent… encourages people to think of themselves as sexual assault victims when there was no assault.” But controversial or not, nowhere in his piece does he “apologize” for rapists or excuse the crime of sexual assault. To accuse him of doing so is certainly an effective way to end a conversation. After all, what reasonable person would engage in argument with someone who is apologizing for rapists?
Like McIntyre, Valenti argues that “the worst offense is Rubenfeld’s apparent belief that there is a ‘debate’ to be had as if there are two equal sides, both with reasonable and legitimate points.” But worse is Valenti’s suggestion that her views—and those who agree with her—are the only reasonable and legitimate ones.
Predictably, Rubenfeld’s op-ed provoked backlash at Yale too. Some 75 students signed a lengthy letter condemning his “overly narrow view of the purpose of processes that allow survivors to report sexual misconduct and seek support on college campuses.”
The letter gave the impression that Rubenfeld had no support at Yale, but some students have quietly taken his side. “There actually are a large number of students who agree with him but are not at all comfortable coming forward in his defense,” a female law student at Yale who wished to remain anonymous told the Daily Beast. “I think that speaks to a lack of intellectual diversity in the conversation.”
“There is a baseline agreement when it comes to campus rape: the current system is failing these students,” she added. “People who don’t agree on a particular policy to address the campus rape crisis are not rape apologists.”Nobody who has spent any time in academia will find this unusual. The campus left simply does not accept that people who disagree with them have a right to speak.
But lately many feminists seem more focused on setting “acceptable” conditions and standards of debate than on taking political action to combat sexism and sexual assault.
This should sound familiar at Marquette. Not only did the aforementioned instructor in the Philosophy Department explain that gay marriage could not be discussed in class, another Philosophy graduate student asserted that opposition to gay marriage would constitute “violence” against gays.
The claim that somehow men are not allowed to debate abortion is essentially dishonest. Feminists would never admit that women should be excluded from any policy debate. What the feminists who shut down the Oxford debate objected to was merely the expression of ideas they disliked.
When women with whom the feminists disagree speak up, they are routinely demeaned and derided.
The simple fact is that feminism is not a women’s movement at all. It’s a leftist movement exploiting the (sometimes real, sometimes imagined) victimization of women to achieve leftist goals. The phrase “women’s movement” is in fact simply a lie. The feminist banshees are useful as shock troops for the left, but they represent leftists, not women.