Jenny Sterne and Charlie Spargo, The Mancunion, October 7, 2015
Following the decision to prohibit Julie Bindel from speaking at an event hosted by the University of Manchester Free Speech and Secular Society, the Students’ Union Executive Team have now moved to ban men’s rights activist Milo Yiannapoulos, who was originally scheduled to debate alongside her.
Bindel and Yianapoulos were both booked to speak at a debate entitled “From liberation to censorship: Does modern feminism have a problem with free speech?”2 to take place on the 15th of October.
In their initial statement the Students’ Union Executive Team rejected Bindel on the grounds that her appearance would be “potentially in breach of [the] safe space policy.”
Yiannopoulos was, however, initially permitted to attend, albeit under the conditions the event had increased security levels and was ticketed.
In a comment on the Manchester Students’ Union Facebook page to this original decision Yiannopoulos wrote, “I’m astonished that I wasn’t outright banned as well. I’ll have to up my game!”
Women’s Officer Jess Lishak posted an extended explanation in a blog post–since removed due to developments in this situation–to her official Facebook page. In this she described Bindel as a “famous transphobe,” and Yiannopoulos as a “professional misogynist.”
Since this, however, the Union has said that they have been made aware of new information and evidence regarding Yiannopoulos and have amended their original statement after seeking legal advice.
In an update to their original announcement, the Union stated: “Further to our previous decision to ban Julie Bindel from speaking on campus, we are extending this decision to Milo Yiannopoulos.
“We have been made aware of various comments lambasting rape survivors and trans* people, and as such we are concerned for the safety of our students on the topic of this event. He is a rape apologist and has repeatedly used derogatory and debasing ableist language when describing members of the trans* community.
“This undermines the principles of liberation enshrined in the Students’ Union, as outlined in the Safe Space policy. We believe these views could incite hatred against both trans* people and women who have experienced sexual violence. As we believe it is probable these views would be aired in this discussion should he be allowed to speak on campus, we have no choice but to ban him.
“As we made clear to the society, this means that this event with the proposed speakers will not be going ahead under the banner of the Students’ Union, with our support or using our resources.”
Yiannopoulos posted an article to his own blog last year titled “Transgenderism is a psychiatric disorder: Its sufferers need therapy, not surgery”.
The Free Speech and Secular Society is yet to officially respond to this development, but they promised in yesterday’s statement that they will postpone the event and “will not go ahead . . . until some of the conditions imposed upon us have been lifted.”
Julie Bindel also tweeted, directly to the Union: “I am going to fight you in this. You are the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
Talks are ongoing between the Executive and the Free Speech and Secular Society about this situation.
Responding to the news, Yiannapoulos told The Mancunion: “I’m a provocateur and it’s always going to be easy for uptight, censorious types to misrepresent my tweets, jokes and column-writing as ‘hateful.’
“And I know how badly I get under the skin of authoritarian finger-waggers, so I’m not surprised to have been banned. But I’m shocked that Julie Bindel is still getting this eleven years after a column she has apologised for many times.
“I make no apologies for questioning bullshit rape statistics and setting out my views on better treatment pathways for transgender patients. That I do so in strong and occasionally waspish language is irrelevant.
“Indeed, the whole point of the debate was to consider whether feminism has a problem with unfettered speech. I think now we know.”