Yes: Hannah Healey
The central argument against no-platforming in universities is a clear one: we should allow debate around controversial topics because it inspires resilience, critical thinking and better-formed opinions.
It is possible to agree with this statement while still supporting the disinvitation of Jenni Murray, by recognising how exploitative it is to treat trans rights as a conceptual issue to debate about.
Murray’s belief that trans women are not “real women” in- validates the identities of millions of people. Statistically, trans people are more likely to suffer from poor mental health and attempt suicide, which is undoubtedly contributed to by their stigmatisation and marginalisation within society.
Suggesting that we should allow the expression of opinions that directly contribute to this issue for our own intellectual stimulation is, at best, irresponsible and exploitative. At worst, it is incredibly dangerous. There are so many divisive and controversial issues within feminism that could provide high-quality, interesting debates without questioning the validity of someone’s identity. Murray’s opinion is representative of a bigoted, rapidly disappearing society, and we should not discuss it just for the sake of generating controversy.
Murray was coming to discuss feminism and history – so it is unlikely there would have been time for an extensive discussion of her opinions on trans women. Instead, she would probably have delivered a speech about powerful women in history which would have excluded the impact of trans women, thereby subtly erasing trans rights without acknowledging her transphobia.
The impact of this would be to perpetuate non-intersectional feminism.
No-platforming Murray does not represent the stifling of controversial opinions. Instead, it serves to protect the rights of trans people.
No: Maya Nerissa Thomas
When I arrived in Oxford last year, I couldn’t wait to engage in heated discussions with people whose ideas would force me to evaluate, question and develop my own. After all, Oxford was meant to be a bastion for rigorous discourse – an intellectual microcosm, where all ideological persuasions were freely expressed in the interest of academic exploration.
Soon however, I learnt that even at the world’s best university, the only views one can engage with are those deemed “politically correct” enough by the now omnipresent Social Justice Warriors, whose “holier-than-thou” attitude justifies them silencing their opponents.
As Secretary of the Oxford University History Society, I was disappointed by the threatening tone with which we were ordered to cancel our Jenni Murray speaker event last week. We aimed to interview her about her historical writing and her role on BBC Radio 4’s Women’s Hour, yet were prevented from doing so because a fraction of her views were considered controversial enough to eclipse her entire career. The point of a speaker event, especially one in interview- format, is to provoke discourse. Yet, if today we are only allowed to have discussions with like-minded people, then I am saddened by the fate of academia.
The last few years have seen the internet become an ideological echo-chamber, which makes inviting a wide range of live speakers to Oxford all the more important. If a speaker’s ideas prove unsavoury, what better opportunity to challenge them than through a face-to-face debate?
Disinviting speakers because of their views strikes me as cowardly. The best way to shut down an argument is to have the courage to engage with it, and “no-platforming” suggests that even at Oxford, our generation is too weak to handle this confrontation.
It won’t be long until even those with moderately deviating views feel too afraid to speak out.