Professor Eric Anderson had arranged for Mike Buchanan (Justice for Men & Boys) and William Collins (Illustrated Empathy Gap) to deliver talks at his place of work, the University of Winchester U.K., this Friday (1/3/19).
Mike’s talk was billed as ‘Equal Rights for Men & Women’ and William Collins’: ‘Gender in History: Myth and Reality’.
Not only was official permission obtained but Professor Anderson had informed the Feminist Society on campus, as well as the Conservative Society, the leaders of which both expressed interest in seeing the events go ahead.
Unfortunately, yesterday (Tuesday, 26/2/19) a Change.org petition was created to ‘Prevent Men’s Rights Activists from coming to Winchester University’.
Mike was particularly interested to note that in this passage,
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 authors of the petition decided not to mention the awards we have historically conferred upon the Lying Feminists of the Month. The claim that feminists welcome men and discuss men’s issues was presumably a joke.
The petition goes on to say:
There are societies at Winchester such as the Feminist Society and Spectrum who could be directly threatened by this speech and these people being on campus. We want women to feel safe on our campus, and these men do not help in that effort.
‘Directly threatened’ strikes me as a notable turn of phrase. Presumably chosen to invoke the idea of physical danger to members of the Feminist Society and Spectrum (LGBTQ), it appears to me to be a Freudian slip… The truth does indeed pose an existential threat to the viability of the Feminist Society in particular. What the authors of this petition mean when they refer to wanting “women to feel safe” is similarly, I would suggest, not intellectually challenged. A disappointing goal for university students.
The University of Winchester’s Values statement includes the claim that:
we believe academic freedom leads to big ideas which in turn lead to social justice and creativity for a better world.
And goes on to say:
We are passionate about seeing individuals flourish here. The dignity and wellbeing of individuals is important as are their opinions and views. We are committed to working globally to ensure equality and justice for all. Everyone is welcome here. Staff and students will learn to value and appreciate others, whoever they are and whatever their background. Together, we will be supported and challenged to reach our full potential.
These talks were an opportunity for the institution to stand by their sentiments, and Professor Anderson and his students who were looking forward to engaging with the talks. Instead, in the face of feminist pressure, they dithered and hesitated until Mike and William decided that they were uncomfortable with the amount of stress the situation was causing Professor Anderson and voluntarily pulled out of the engagements.
The story made a local news site, The Southern Daily Echo, in which a university spokesman is reported as explaining:
The event with Justice for Men and Boys will not be going ahead. The university, and a significant number of students and staff, had concerns about this event.
When members of staff invite a guest speaker in to speak with students, this should in no way be interpreted as the university supporting or endorsing their views.
Like all universities, Winchester values intellectual freedom and free speech… However, events should be balanced and provide space for healthy challenge and debate.
An interesting exchange can also be found on Mumsnet wherein a variety of posters, despite believing the misrepresentation of Mike in particular, argue with an author of the petition for free speech.
Both talks have been made available to read:
‘Equal Rights for Men & Women’, Mike Buchanan.
‘Gender in History: Myth and Reality’, William Collins.
Finally, I would like to offer my thanks to Professor Anderson for organising the events and persisting, with such determination for so long, in their defence. While his views are as controversial within the MHRM as without, what can be said unequivocally is that he is committed to opening up the debate around gender politics within academia and he deserves our gratitude and respect for that.