Milo Yiannapoulos should not be speaking on college campuses, so campuses are right to cancel or deny him any speaking engagements. Where they do not, students are within their rights to protest and do what they can to block his speech.
It’s not because Milo Yiannapoulos is the embodiment of many of the worst strains of his Catholic religion’s prejudices. It’s not because I disagree with him. It’s not because many students and professors do not like his views. That has absolutely nothing to do with it, because college (as Milo supporters often rightly state) is not there for you to be insulated in your own viewpoint; college is a place to learn, to be challenged, to expand your viewpoint. So you should hear liberal views and conservative views. In colleges, you should hear and be heard. You’re part of a community of learning, developing scholars. The process of being in this community is called “education.”
Universities are here to educate students.
University are not here to bully individual students. That’s not why the exist. That gets in the way of education, because it’s hard to go to class, study, and involve yourself in campus affairs when you are singled out and bullied. To spell it out, the consequences of you being bullied — up to dropping out of a university for your own safety — contradicts the purpose of a university’s bottom line, which is, again, to get you educated.
That doesn’t seem controversial.
Education and bullying are two different things. And if someone comes onto campus and bullies an individual student in front of thousands of people — picture, name, asking if anyone knows the person, etc. — they are interfering with the purpose of the university, which is education. Especially if they clarify later, when the student drops out, that they accomplished their mission.
Let me give you an example. You may have heard of a transgender student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee who was made fun of by Milo. Let’s walk through what happened.
After Milo, in his speech, finished making fun of criticism over the phrase “man up” he said:
Here’s the horrifying thing: this trans student was in the crowd. Called out. And then your picture — which was, as the trans woman stated later, earlier in her transition — flips up on the screen. Right there. In front of the auditorium. On the big screen. And in front of thousands of other people watching online.
It gets worse. Milo then says:
“Do you know about (Student’s Name)? Have any of you come into contact with this person?”
Hold it. This student is in the crowd, probably with her friends, and now the friends have been shamed for being in contact with her, too. They did not ask for this. They did not know this was coming. They’re sitting there, stunned. He keeps going.
“This quote unquote nonbinary trans—you’re not laughing now, are you, you know him—this quote unquote nonbinary trans woman forced his way into the women’s locker rooms this year. Who knows about this story, any of you? I see you don’t even read your own student media.”
It. would. not. have. been. a. big. deal. Most apparently did not even know. No. Big. Deal. So what? Now she goes into the locker room that matches her gender. She’s able to concentrate on her education — because if she looks like a woman and goes into the men’s locker room, there’s harassment there. So she goes to the bathroom that matches her gender, and everything is fine. Again, most of the students didn’t even really know. She’s been able to get educated in peace. But after this, every time she walks into a classroom, she’s that trans woman Milo made fun of in front of thousands of people. Every time she walks into a locker room, she now may have to watch her back. Before she had decent job prospects, presumably. Now, her name is out there, and she has to worry whether her possible employer or coworkers will realize she is that trans woman Milo made fun of in a front of thousands of people — and now millions, as several have seen the story since.
She did not ask for this. All she wanted to do was go to the bathroom that matched her gender.
And here’s the thing — this would have been in the realm of simple “free speech” (however disturbing it is) if it happened off campus — like Milo’s Catholic church. But it’s happening at a university whose express and only real jobs are to conduct research and to educate students. This is ruining her education. It is not the place for this bullying. It goes fundamentally against the goals of the university.
I want to underline this point.
This is not about being a social justice warrior or an anti-social justice warrior. This is not about liberal vs. conservative ideology. This is not about partisan social politics. That’s all in the arena of a debate that we can definitely discuss on a college campus. I support that debate and I think it needs to happen for the benefit of students’ education. Nor is this about a vague random case he threw out anonymously as an illustration of a point he was making.
This is about the fact that individual students, regardless of their backgrounds or political views, should not be personally abused by having their picture surprisingly put on a large screen in full display for thousands of people, and their full name used, to bully them and disrupt their education.
Then he says:
“He got into the women’s room the way liberals always operate, using the government and the courts to weasel their way where they don’t belong. In this case he made a Title IX complaint. Title IX is a set of rules to protect women on campus effectively. It’s couched in the language of equality, but it’s really about women, which under normal circumstances would be fine except for how it’s implemented. Now it is used to put men in to women’s bathrooms.”
Maybe you’re conservative and you think misgendering a transgender person blatantly and proudly in front of thousands of people is fine. OK, look at this objectively. Studies indicate that it’s traumatic for many transgender people. So he is traumatizing this student even more here…and he doesn’t need to do it (and, given his history with the LGBT movement, he knows exactly what he’s doing). It’s unnecessary bullying. This isn’t about education. This isn’t about a general point — he could have kept her anonymous. This is about bullying. And, lest there be any doubt on this, he then says:
“I have known some passing trannies in my life. Trannies—you’re not allowed to say that. I’ve known some passing trannies, which is to say transgender people who pass as the gender they would like to be considered.”
In case you don’t already know, “tranny” is like the word “nigger.” Milo knows this. To add insult to injury, he switches from calling her a nonbinary trans woman, and calls her the most insulting name you can call a trans woman. To bully her. As she is there in the crowd, watching.
But he’s not done. He then gestures at the picture, evaluates whether the person is passing (again, the picture was taken months earlier, while she was still trying to look more female, making the picture even more mortifying for her) and says:
Which is further unnecessary bullying. And the audience laughs. But that’s not enough. One step forward:
“The way that you know he’s failing is I’d almost still bang him. It’s just…it’s just a man in a dress, isn’t it?”
Think of this from the student’s perspective. This person has been insulted by this man, bullied by him…and then she is evaluated for whether she is a sexual object for him to bang, on top of it.
OK, you say. That was unnecessarily cruel. Maybe a bit. But he’s only done it one time. He has so much to offer regarding his unique perspective — why not give him another shot?
While I disagree with that sentiment — I strongly think that universities should be more zero-tolerance about this, not because they are trying to be “politically correct” but because bullied students perform worse academically and are not educated as well — I’ll grant it for the sake of argument. Let’s say that if this is a one-time thing, we should forgive him for it.
As the student wrote to the university president after dropping out of the university due to the bullying that took place after Milo singled her out, she originally protested Milo’s coming to campus, along with several other students, because she anticipated such harassment:
“Don’t act like you didn’t know this would happen. You knew goddamn well it would. I lost track of how many people pointed this out to you. And what the hell did you do when students tried to organize and deliver a petition to cancel Milo’s event? YOU FUCKING CALLED THE COPS ON THEM. LIKE WHAT IN THE LIVING FUCK. Your asshole level is off the charts, especially because you feign concern about this with one hand while backhanding all of us with the other. Because there’s nothing like the threat of state violence to keep people in line.
“Seriously, you FUCKING CALLED THE GODDAMN POLICE on students at your office who were raising extremely valid concerns about Milo, you forcibly threw students out, and then you want to turn around and act like you didn’t see this coming? How fucking naïve do you think we are?
“This also isn’t just a case of a speaker going off an a tangent like that, like some random occurrence. It was not a case where you had no way of knowing he would do this. Quite the contrary: Milo has a supremely extensive, highly-documented track record of doing precisely this. As I’ve already said, YOU KNEW THIS WOULD HAPPEN. WE TOLD YOU IT WOULD. AND WE TOLD YOU AGAIN. AND AGAIN. But you brushed this off under “muh free speech” bullshit.”
But maybe, you’re saying, he’s apologized. That way, he could speak his mind — just so long as he didn’t bully individual students inside the university.
But Milo was proud that he got the student so distressed, so upset, so bullied that she had to leave the university. As he said in a later speech.:
“He created a terrible fuss, an awful fuss, when I put his name up there and so did the president of that university. But it turns out, he’s going to quit the university. So I have become a sort of second wave feminist icon, protecting women from men in their locker rooms. Well, you’re welcome, feminism.”
He’s actually proud of it.
He is proud that he bullied this trans woman so badly that she cannot get educated effectively at the school that was supposed to educate her.
This is intolerable. His pride shows that it will happen again, and this is why he should not speak at universities. He can speak conservative views or liberal views, but when he calls out a member of the student body, puts a picture up on the screen for thousands to see, gives her full name, proudly misgenders her, calls her the most vulgar slur in his arsenal, mocks her appearance, shames people for being friends with her, states she might be attractive enough for him to put his dick up her ass, disturbs her attendance by making light of a little-known Title IX compliance case that had been scarcely heard of by most in the university, and then boasts with a proud “mission accomplished” when said student drops out of the university due to the ensuing bullying, he is interfering with the university’s job of protecting and enhancing the safe education of its students. He is not educating; he is bullying. And apparently they knew he would do it. And we know, based on his reaction, that he will probably do it again.
We cannot afford to have someone on our college campuses who wears a badge of honor for this behavior. Not because he has conservative views, but because it interferes with student education. This is not OK; it is not what the university is for.
The privacy of individual students has strong importance in such public speeches. And I’m not just saying that because I’m a liberal; if a liberal did anything close to that to a conservative far-righter, the same logic would remain: Is this bullying the student, or enhancing their education? I would never condone, under any circumstances, someone speaking at a university to proudly bully individual students out of its walls.
This is not rocket science. This is not a partisan issue. This is about the purpose of a university, which is education. Some spaces outside the university may have different purposes. When Milo is in his transphobic Catholic church down the street he can rant and rail against individual transgender people all he wants, so long as he is not using my tax money to do it. I may not like it, but that’s his right. But the purpose of the university is education, and if a speaker is keeping individual students from being effectively educated because of his outrageous, proud bullying of individual students he names, he’s in the way of that purpose.
And his speaking engagements at these places of education should be cancelled, regardless of his ideology. The students and their education come first.
Thank you for reading.
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