“You think freedom means doing what you like. Well, you’re wrong. That isn’t true freedom. True freedom means doing what I tell you.” (Shift, in The Last Battle)
I can’t remember many times when I have found myself agreeing with Germaine Greer, but on this occasion I am at least sympathetic with her situation. A petition with over 800 signatories is pushing to ban Germaine Greer from giving a lecture at Cardiff University, on account of her views about sexuality. That’s right, one the world’s most outspoken voices on women’s rights and sexual liberties is apparently too orthodox for these students.
The author of the petition commented, ”Greer has demonstrated time and time again her misogynistic views towards trans women, including continually misgendering trans women and denying the existence of transphobia altogether.”
“While debate in a university should be encouraged, hosting a speaker with such problematic and hateful views towards marginalised and vulnerable groups is dangerous. Allowing Greer a platform endorses her views, and by extension, the transmisogyny which she continues to perpetuate.” (quoted in The Age October 25, Petition calls for university to ban Germaine Greer from event over ‘hateful’ transgender views)
Based on this explanation it sounds as though Germaine Greer must hold some very distasteful views about transgender people. However, when I listened to Greer’s views, it appears that the accusations are false. The point that so riled these Welsh students is that Greer believes that surgical and hormonal treatment does not make a man into a woman. In fact, Greer does little more than state a biological fact. Listen to this interview by the BBC (language warning):
The allegations are so ridiculous; I feel like I need to rub my eyes to make sure that I’m not living in some fantasy land. But no, this isn’t Narnia or Animal Farm.
The allegation of transmisogyny maybe unfounded, but that doesn’t matter because the accusation itself is an effective way to silence opposing views. It may not have worked in the case of Germain Greer, not but not everyone is boisterous and thick skinned.
These students from Cardiff University have used a tool of debate that is becoming all to common:
- Silence your opponents by accusing them of hate.
- Silence your opponents by insisting that their views will lead to abuses.
No one is doubting that homosexual and transgender people have suffered abuses, and speaking out about such treatment is only right. The issue here, however, is not about protecting transgender people from hate and abuse, it is about denying people the freedom to discuss and disagree with the current sexual milieu. What makes this whole approach particularly ugly is that it is using people’s vulnerabilities and fears as a smoke screen for social engineering.
Germaine Greer is not the first victim of these Calormene-like speech police, this is the growing experience for many groups in the UK, Canada, Germany and the USA; especially Christian groups.
Sadly, this change of climate is also moving over Australian society, and a cold winter is gradually freezing out free speech. Take for example, Bill Shorten’s op-ed piece for Fairfax on the issue of the plebiscite for same-sex marriage:
“But I don’t think enough attention has been paid to the biggest risk a plebiscite brings – the danger and the damage of unleashing a divisive, drawn-out debate.
A plebiscite could act as a lightning rod for the very worst of the prejudice so many LGBTI Australians endure. A platform for people to attack, abuse and demean Australians on the basis of who they love.”
In other words, we should by-pass public opinion because public views may not necessarily conform to the progressive agenda.
“You thought! As if anyone could call what goes on in your head thinking.” Just as Shift challenged the Bear who dared question him, we seem to be moving toward a democratic totalitarianism, where society permits us to support same-sex marriage and sexual fluidity, but we are no longer free to offer a dissenting voice. Nowhere is this more evident than perhaps in Victoria where the Daniel Andrews’ Government is introducing policies that deliberately target the removal of Christian ideas and values from the public arena.
Deitrich Bonheoffer observed how the Reichstag Fire Decree of 1933 changed the public space in Germany. He wrote,
“Restrictions on personal liberty, on the right of free expression of opinion, including freedom of the press, on the rights of the assembly and association, and violations of the privacy of postal, telegraphic and telephonic communications, and warrants for house searches, orders for confiscations as well as restrictions on property, are also permissible beyond the legal limits otherwise prescribed.”
We have begun down this insane path, and if the media and certain political parties are anything to go by, the journey is just beginning.
In light of this, I offer these 3 suggestions:
1. Don’t accept the premise behind the case for marriage change. Disagreement and disapproval does not equal hate. The Bill Shorten’s and Cardiff students of this world would have us believe that there are only two roads to travel, either total acceptance or hate and fear. Both options are untenable. Christians know that the Gospel of Jesus Christ offers us a third way, that of loving and reasonable disagreement.
2. Don’t yield to the pressure and remain silent. It is important for the plurality of Australian voices to be heard in the public space.
3. Speaking up is no longer free; it will come at a cost. Our situation is unusual in light of world history; we have enjoyed social freedoms that people in many other parts of the world have never experienced. It has been possible to speak openly without any genuine sacrifice, perhaps a few crude comments thrown our way but nothing more. We need to wake up to the fact that Australia has changed, and for Christians, Jesus’ words about taking up our cross may become more than just words.
A donkey dressed up as a lion is still a donkey, no matter how much a monkey tells you otherwise. That old Narnian like Bear, Germaine Greer, has spotted a fraud in public discourse and we Aussies’ would be wise to also question the course that national conversation is now taking.