By Hannah Cox
When Students of Winchester University discovered that the group Justice for Men and Boys was set to give a talk on the first of March, many were disgusted. What followed was a petition, now victorious with 719 signatures, requesting that this group be prevented from giving the talk and kept off the campus.
The petition was headed by this statement:
“While feminism welcomes men and discusses men’s issues, this group is not inclusive or concerned with equality for all. Rather, they give ‘awards’ to ‘whiny feminist of the month’ and ‘gormless feminist of the month’, as well as supporting articles such as ’13 reasons why women lie about being raped’. The leader can also be quoted to say ‘many feminists are profoundly stupid, as well as hateful’, ‘feminists are generally less attractive than normal women’, and suggests feminists should be arrested and forced ‘with the threat of denying them chocolate – to undertake IQ tests’. He also states he ‘has a strong suspicion that many feminists (particularly lesbian feminists) have male brains which might help explain why they are so masculine, assertive, and work-centred’.”
Whilst it is perfectly understandable to be upset by these statements made by the leader of the party Mike Buchanan, there is arguably something lost in not allowing them to talk about their party and why it exists.
Students of Winchester University received this notice:
The University’s freedom of speech policy upholds that it will ensure “the protection of the rights of members of the University to hear ideas and controversial or unpopular opinions”. However, this event was deemed unsuitable due to the likelihood of it spreading hateful and damaging ideologies.
A Sky News interview with Mike Buchanan revealed the following:
Mr Buchanan said he was “disappointed” by the university’s decision and said the party had been “very badly misrepresented” by the petition, describing allegations of misogyny as “complete nonsense”. He said: “I was a bit annoyed that they didn’t refer to our Lying Feminist of the Month awards. We call out feminists for lying – including some MPs – for being whiny, for being gormless, for being toxic.”
Responding to allegations his party is not inclusive, he said: “We’re absolutely for equality and opportunity” and said there are “plenty” of women in the men’s rights movement.
Some students at the University do not support the party, but believe it is important to hear their views. Samuel Collis, a student currently studying at Winchester University had this to say:
“It is important to hear views which differ from yours, and even more important to hear and debate these controversial opinions. Denying these groups their right to speak simply reinforces their negative views and does nothing to discredit their arguments. I am disappointed that my university, who claim to support the right to free speech and to hear controversial opinions, would abandon that commitment so easily in the face of a vocal minority who wish to deny others this right.”
Once again, Universities have found themselves at the centre of an interesting debate. Do we silence those whose views we find harmful? Do we empower them by doing so? Universities have no-platform policies and withhold the right to cancel speakers and events, for which there are pros and cons. Marginalised groups do need to be protected, but do we empower harmful views when we do not engage with them openly? Will any University officially commit to hosting a platform dedicated to free speech?