Safe spaces, unsafe speakers

This is going to be brief. As why shouldn’t it?

I learnt, late last night, that Manchester SU had put out a statement confirming their decision to no platform Julie Bindel. Its an odd statement, since it argues that her “views and comments towards trans people” could “incite hatred towards and exclusion of our trans students”.

Well, she is unlikely to win the title of world’s greatest trans advocate any time soon. But that’s a much bigger debate. Whereas this particular exclusion seems to have been grounded in a policy that is about “safe spaces”.

Can i be bothered to argue the toss out of this foolishness? No. Here’s my simple brief take.


This is NOT about safety. I do not, for one instant, believe JB represents a physical threat to any individual at this event.


JB should not have been no platformed.


There are many, many far unsafer spaces and unsafer speakers.


One of those unsafer speakers, well known for his safe views such as “Trans is a mental illness” and “if you’ve heard about a rape, it’s fake” is Milo Yiannopoulos: apparently, according to Manchester SU, he is a safer speaker than JB


Despite such nastiness, i would not support no platforming Yiannopoulos either. I’ve shared a TV studio with him: he did not threaten me physically, though his presence there allowed me to take down one of his sillier comments about trans people on air.

It won’t entirely endear me to what is oft presumed to be my (trans) constituency, but so be it. I do not consider myself limited in that way: forever condemned to be mouthpiece for one group only. I am trans, feminist, catholic, radical, old-style Liberal and – Letchworth beware! – local activist.

Not all of those bits will join together seamlessly. But i know what i feel to be overwhelmingly wrong – and this decision is wrong.

That is all.


About janefae

On my way from here to there
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One Response to Safe spaces, unsafe speakers

  1. Thank you for alerting me to this situation with Julie Bindel. As a transsexual Lesbian feminist of the Second Wave who’s been involved with all this at various points since 1973, I support your position and add a few thoughts from the other side of the Atlantic.

    First, in tweeting my support for Julie Bindel’s right to speak and deploring the patriarchal double standard involved (no-platforming Julie, but not a transphobic male antifeminist), I also tweeted my support for Laurie Penny, a feminist who has been a dedicated trans ally.

    More generally, I see a good watchword as “truth and reconciliation,” which means not only ceasing and desisting from obvious transphobia, but from attempts to marginalize or shame feminists like Laurie Penny who had it right when the views of others had not yet “evolved” — although Andrea Dworkin, for one, had it right in Woman Hating (1974).

    In the process, I learned that Julie Bindel has made a statement of apology for some past articles from 2004 or thereabouts, not only the tone but the “content.” One test of sincerity is not demeaning the feminism of sisters whose support for inclusion and basic decency has helped to get us all to where we are.

    What the need to support Laurie Penny has taught me is that a genuinely inclusive radical feminism means not just including trans people, intersex people, nonbinary people, and sex workers, but not using “handmaiden of the patriarchy” as a synonym for “another feminist who disagrees with me.”


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