SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 13: Germaine Greer on stage during a media call at the NSW Teachers Federation Conference Centre on March 13, 2008 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Gaye Gerard/Getty Images)

Seriously, stop being so offended

When did students become so unbearably sensitive, and when did they become so completely intolerant of other people’s views?

Isn’t the clichéd idea of university and of university students meant to be one of free and open debate, discussion, free thought and original ideas? You could be forgiven for thinking otherwise these days, when students – and I’m mainly on about student politicians and that general crowd – seem obsessed with banning absolutely anything that might cause the slightest bit of offence to anyone.

It’s even got to the mad stage of UEA banning the giving out and wearing of sombreros due to fears that this might upset Mexican people. Laughable. Or it would be. However, when you start to ban people from speaking at university or anywhere else, just because you do not agree with what they believe, things become slightly more serious.

The latest person to be denied a platform – by people who assume they know better than the rest of us – is not an evil, fascist, out of touch, oppressive white man; but one of the proponents of feminism and modern liberal life – Germaine Greer. She has been more or less told by students at Cambridge to stay away from, not just the university, but the city itself.

More recently a large group of students at the University of Cardiff have attempted to bar her through a petition. They don’t want her speaking there as they are convinced that she hates transgender people. She has been accused by some of hate speech.

Some even think that her opinions constitute an incitement of violence against the trans community. This is of course all absolute rubbish. She has done nothing of the kind. What she has done is state an opinion, which has been wildly misconstrued.

The controversy comes mainly from Greer’s belief that transgender women, or post-operative women, are not real women. Now whether you agree with this or not is not really the issue – it is the reaction to this opinion which is most worrying.

I think it’s probably a debate for more learned people than myself on the subject, although I can see what Greereis trying to say – if you’re not born with female genitalia then you cannot be a woman in the strictest sense. I don’t know. However, I find it hard to believe that I am the only student not to be so completely and utterly outraged to the point of labelling someone as morally corrupt.

This is though, unfortunately, a fairly common occurrence these days. Whether you are Germaine Greer, Nigel Farage or David Starcky (opposed to gay marriage), if your views are opposed to the student chorus then you will be deemed to be transphobic, trans-misogynist, racist, homophobic or bigoted in some way or another.

What you say is not so important, it is what people believe you have said that makes all the difference. People’s opinions are therefore classified as some sort of pathology, and any sort of legitimacy you may have is effectively taken away from you. It turns in to a nasty form of censorship.

You are allowed to think what you like so long as you agree with us, if not you must be in some way a horrible person. The irony is that the people preventing figures like Greer from speaking, in the name of tolerance and benignity, are themselves the ones being absolutely intolerant of the views of others.

Allowing someone to speak with whom you disagree does not immediately signify that you endorse their views – one of the reasons given for the Cardiff petition. Difference of opinion is a good thing. Debate is a good thing. Friction is also at times a good thing.

Do we really want to attend universities where everyone thinks and does everything exactly the same?

Harry Brennan

bathimpact WriterIf you don’t agree with Greer, if you truly are offended by her beliefs, fine – it is your right to be so. But don’t stop other people from thinking what they like.

If we continue on that road, universities and students’ unions will become more and more like Stalinist totalitarian soviets. I’m not too keen.

Latest from Comment