Germaine Greer and the Problem with Free Speech

Anna Casasco ’19
Contributing Writer

Germaine Greer, the Australian author of “The Female Eunuch” and feminist is pretty well-liked, right? Think again. Recently, Greer stated that transgender women are not real women, and the praise for undergoing gender transition is actually misogynistic. “I think misogyny plays a really big part in all of this, that a man who goes to these lengths to become a woman will be a better woman than someone who is just born a woman,” she said. Many people, including myself, disagree with her on this perspective, which seeks to hurt and marginalize.

Greer was asked to speak at Cardiff University before her problematic remark about transgender women, but now students have created a petition to ban Greer from speaking at the University. The students surpassed their original goal of 2,000 signatures in just four days. However, the University rejected the petition and Greer will still speak. Greer responded to the petition, saying, “I do not know why universities cannot hear unpopular views and think about what they mean.”

The problem is not that college students don’t want to hear unpopular opinions. Rather, it is that openly hurtful opinions toward a marginalized group, who already receive an incredible amount of criticism from the public, do not need a so-called “feminist” to tell them they that are not welcome in the very community where they thought they could find acceptance.

Greer is a world-renowned feminist, author and activist for the feminist movement. However, going into an atmosphere where you know your views will be met with disregard – why even go and meet that backlash? We should allow free speech and open debate on campus, but when that free speech turns into hate speech, I think that is unacceptable. Cardiff University administrators even released a statement saying that they welcome people with a range of views to speak at their university. Do the students petition against every speaker who doesn’t carry their same views? No, of course not. However, if students are rallying together and creating such large numbers to protest against speakers, I think the university administration should take notice of this and consider what kind of backlash a talk by this speaker would create.

Greer is being told to speak about her own views, which would be understood as hurtful and transphobic. If a college administrator invites a speaker to share their disrespectful views, it should come as no surprise when the students speak out and sign petitions against the speaker. Free speech and open debate matter and are important. However, the administration needs to know that if the opinions of the speaker will be harmful to a specific group, that speaker should not be invited to the campus at all.

3 Comments

  1. wendy trauth says:

    Germaine Greer stated her opinion. She never said that her purpose in saying this was to hurt/marginalize anyone. What she said is not hate speech anymore than if someone says that bald men are less attractive than non-bald men. If her opinion creates backlash- so what? The world of opinions is a busy and tumultuous place. Greer has her opinion, and other voices have theirs. Let everyone speak their mind- that’s what adults do.

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