No, feminist speech is not the same as inciting genocide

Paris Lees’ claims that feminist ideas are “hate speech” demonstrate a deep misunderstanding of the term.

Paris Lees (Image: BBC)

Poor ol’ Paris Lees is running out of ideas. Luckily, an obsession with Germaine Greer will take you a long way!

Back in 2015, Lees argued that Greer should be no-platformed for saying that transwomen are male and that feminism is a movement for women. (EEK GASP!)

While indeed, those who are not familiar with the history of the feminist movement and the roots of women’s oppression may not like such statements (and likely can’t stand Greer’s blunt style — ladies should be demure and polite at all times!), they are, nonetheless, factual.

“Who is she to police the borders of womanhood?” Lees asked. Well, a woman, for one… But in the modern, post-patriarchy era we are all so fortunate to be living in, women’s opinions about women are irrelevant. Best to check in with men on these matters.

Lees argued, in 2015, that Greer’s claims that transwomen are men constituted “hate speech,” and compared her comments to racist right-wingers who compare refugees to rats and cockroaches. It’s a strange reversal, because when racist white people attack marginalized ethnic groups, there is an issue of power at play — we live in a white supremacy, so people of colour constitute an oppressed class of people. Similarly, under patriarchy, men make up the dominant class, and women are born into an oppressed class. Feminists like Greer rejecting men from the feminist movement is akin to black activist groups refusing to work with white people.

It is not, in fact, “discrimination,” as Lees claims, for oppressed groups of people to meet and organize without their oppressors. Lees is essentially arguing that feminists are guilty of “reverse sexism” and that oppressed people must allow their oppressors to dictate their language, activism, speech, and spaces.

It seems that in the past two years, Lees’ brain hasn’t developed much, so Lees has published almost the exact same article again in Vice. This time, Lees uses the firing of Katie Hopkins over a tweet she posted calling for a “final solution” after the Manchester terror attack as a jumping off point. This language is coded — the Nazis used the term “final solution” to refer to their intention to destroy the Jewish people. It described a plan to enact systematic genocide. This is where “free speech” ends and becomes “hate speech” — when you start advocating genocide.

But dear Paris seems not to understand either the Criminal Code or the difference between suggesting a group of people should be murdered and sharing political opinions or basic facts about biology.

As such, Lees falls back on that unhealthy obsession and asks why those who defended Greer’s right to speak on matters of feminism and womanhood are not defending Hopkins incitement to genocide:

“Where’s this lot now? Why aren’t they all leaping to the defence of Katie Hopkins? Because if Germaine Greer has an unquestionable, God-given right to a platform at Cardiff University, then by the same logic Katie Hopkins deserves a platform at LBC. After all, the press and broadcast media play an important role in promoting free speech — right?”

Lees imagines that those who defended Greer’s right to speak believe there is no line, when it comes to “free speech.” Of course, there is a line, and Hopkins crossed it. Greer and her feminist sisters, though, have not.

Feminism does not advocate to kill people who identify as transgender. (Ironically, trans activists do have a pesky habit of advocating the murder of feminists…) Feminism says that women are oppressed based on the fact that they are born female and says they have the right to safe space, free from males — the people responsible for abusing, raping, and murdering them. The false equivalency Lees puts forth, with regard to where lines should be drawn, is actually quite astonishing:

“For many people, clearly, referencing the Nazis and calling for a ‘final solution’ is the red line. For trans people, it’s when mainstream feminists imply that we are rapists and feed into the dangerous rhetoric that trans women are men in disguise — an idea that is responsible for the deaths of thousands of trans women around the world.”

Despite what Lees believes, the “line” really isn’t really as much a matter of personal opinion as it is presented here. Women are allowed to name their oppressors. It is not our obligation to pretend that we don’t fear male violence, simply because the males in question identify as transgender. Beyond that, it is not feminists who are responsible for the deaths of transwomen, but men. Lees’ attacks on feminists, whilst ignoring the male perpetrators responsible, as a means to vilify and silence women’s speech, is harmful and enables male violence. By disguising the cause of the violence perpetrated against women as well as trans-identified people, we let men off the hook, which empowers them to commit further violence.

If trans activists like Lees truly do care about the safety of those who identify as transgender, they need to hold perpetrators to account, not scapegoat feminists. So long as men’s actions remain invisible, they will continue to get away with abuse.

In conclusion, Lees calls for us to “focus on the important issues that cause people actual harm.” I agree, and look forward to Lees next article targeting male violence.

Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, I-D, Truthdig, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.

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