Do Feminists Deserve Free Speech?

Do Feminists Deserve Free Speech?

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”

Evelyn Beatrice Hall

There could not be a concept more foundational to western civilization than the right to freedom of speech. Yet, in today’s political climate of censorship and cancel culture, the sentiment expressed in the quote above may seem old-fashioned, maybe even quaint. Sadly, it seems that there are increasingly few people in the modern world willing to allow their political enemies a voice and even fewer willing to defend that voice. This is doubly true among Scotland’s lawmakers and police force.

Recently, accountant and feminist activist, Marion Miller, was arrested and charged for “online communication offences” under the Malicious Communications Act. In other words, she committed the heinous crime of using Twitter to express her views. For this, she is facing six months in prison if she is convicted.

One of the tweets for which she was arrested was of a photograph of a green, white, and purple ribbon tied to a tree. Clearly representing solidarity with the suffragettes which are represented by those colours.

Supposedly, the complaint made to the police suggested that the ribbon resembled a noose. Having seen the image however, it would be a stretch to say that it resembled a noose any more than say, an AIDs ribbon. The SNP logo could be said to resemble a noose, yet I don’t see any members of the SNP being arrested for offensive iconography.

The implications of such arrests are horrifying. To arrest someone, not because of anything they’ve said but because of loose interpretations of a photo they posted is utter madness. Under this standard, anyone could be arrested for anything as long as someone was willing to infer ill-intent into your actions, whether there was any or not.

The other five tweets have not been publicised, but I find it hard to imagine anything that could be contained in a tweet, that would justify an arrest let alone a prison sentence. No matter how offensive the sentiment, there can be no justification for imprisoning someone on the basis of their views. If people are to be arrested for “controversial” social media posts then it is absolutely clear that we do not live in a free society in which people are entitled to their own opinions. We live in an oppressive police-state in which thoughts can be considered crimes. A society where people who hold “incorrect” views are criminalised simply for disagreeing on what are highly debatable social issues.

Take another case that happened last month. University of Abertay law student, Lisa Keogh was brought before a disciplinary board for comments she made about transgenderism. In a debate about trans woman participating in mixed martial arts she said a woman with “32 years” of “testosterone in her body” would be “genetically stronger than your average woman”. This is of course a statement of biological fact. There is simply no disputing the fact the presence of testosterone in the body growing up will result in greater muscle mass and strength.

Yet, Keogh was forced to defend her statements in front of a panel in order to avoid being expelled and having her education ruined. Fortunately, the board elected not to expel Kough but no doubt the experience caused a lot of unnecessary and undue distress in the student’s final year.

What I find most disturbing about these types of cases is how non-controversial they would have been even a short time ago. Could you have even imagined 10 years ago that you could be arrested for statements such as “women have vaginas” or “testosterone gives an unfair advantage in sport”?

Yet somehow the Overton window has shifted so radically in the past few years that any comment on the trans-issue that could be interpreted as negative could be enough to get you arrested by Scottish police. And with the SNP’s introduction of the hate crime bill, we will be seeing far more of these cases in the near future.

In other words, beliefs that would have been perfectly normal and acceptable a decade ago have become effectively criminalised, in order to avoid any discussion or criticism of the transgender phenomenon. Transgenderism is a complex issue that can radically impact on people’s lives including the lives of vulnerable people, struggling to find an identity. It also a relatively new subject for many people, who may not have thought deeply about the issue. It is therefore essential that we are able to have frank and honest discussions of the issue without fear of being thrown into prison by rabid ideologues, who have no tolerance for nuance or difference of opinion.

The most common targets of this kind of persecution are feminists. This is because many feminists see transgenderism as a threat to women’s rights and loudly speak out on the issue. After all, what do women’s rights even mean if any man can simply identify themselves as a trans-woman and be entitled to female benefits and access to female-only spaces?

The irony of all this is that feminists have used exactly the same tactics as the transgender activists to silence their opponents. Shaming language, appeals to offensiveness and yes, criminalisation of certain word and expressions are weapons that have been used by feminists to shut speech down. In fact, it’s difficult to think of a group that has done more to undermine free speech in recent years than radical feminists.

If a man was facing prison for publishing misogynistic tweets I find it hard to imagine that any feminists would have leaped to the defence of his free speech as they have for Miller. It is only now that it negatively affects them directly that feminists appeal to free speech as a defence for their own controversial opinions.

However, no matter how disagreeable, controversial or “offensive” someone’s views are, they should at least have the right to express them. And while I vehemently disagree with the Marxist and misandrist ideals of modern feminism, I will always support their right to express those ideals. Because I believe even feminists deserve free speech.

 

Ross Gibson Is an SLP activist and contributor 

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1 Comment on "Do Feminists Deserve Free Speech?"

  • Natasha says

    Hi Ross,

    I enjoyed this article. Very well written! As someone who considers herself a “moderate” feminist (or feminist light), I agree with the points you’ve made. Canada is grappling with the similar issues of balancing free speech with not causing offense to “marginalized” groups. I find this abhorrent as no one has the right not to be offended – unfortunately, too many people do not understand this fact.

    I’m hopeful, but doubtful, things will change any time soon. What people who believe in policing speech fail to realize is that eventually, they’ll come for you too.

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