Lecture Hall (Image)

A packed lecture hall in the Social Science Centre on Oct. 30, 2017.

Re: USC candidates shouldn’t be afraid to defend women’s rights

What do you think of when I say that something is a violation of your bodily integrity? I suppose you might picture some horrific and devastating assault on your person, at least that’s what comes to my mind. But would any sensible person ever imagine that a violation of bodily integrity could be something as mundane as someone handing you a controversial pamphlet? Of course not.

But indeed, that’s exactly what has happened. A recent letter to the editor, entitled "USC candidates shouldn’t be afraid to defend women’s rights" actually contained the following line: “frankly, being handed graphic anti-abortion flyers is a violation of my own bodily integrity.” Yes, that is an actual statement from a well-educated and intelligent adult. To those whose reason remains intact, it should be shocking and abhorrent that our current intellectual climate is such that someone could legitimately assert that to be handed a pamphlet with controversial material is a violation of her bodily integrity. 

As a quick aside, I wish that the advocates of censorship would have the courage to be honest and argue for what is clearly their real goal, preventing the expression of opinions they dislike. At least then we could have a sincere discussion about the merits of censorship versus free expression. But they never do. They always claim to be in favour of free speech, but then almost immediately back track and give some example of an opinion which offends them and therefore isn’t legitimate. The author is no different, beginning her piece by saying that she doesn’t want to censor groups or opinions, but that their expression should be limited if it makes for an unsafe space. That is to say, a space in which her ideas are questioned and disagreed with.    

I say this as someone who agrees with the author on the issue, I’m pro-choice myself. But that doesn’t mean I’m not appalled by such absurdities. What I have trouble understanding is why the author so blatantly patronizes herself and presumably her peers as well. For some reason she regards herself, and the student body, as too fragile and immature to grapple with these difficult issues. I on the other hand believe that myself and my peers are intelligent and mature enough to deal with these controversial matters without feeling physically threatened.

I’m honestly thrilled to see all this discussion of free speech. It is, in my opinion, a much more important issue than most of the other petty trivialities that bung up campus discourse. I encourage the author, and anyone else who might disagree with anything I’ve said, to step forward and refute me. I only beg that those who do continue this discussion use better arguments than claiming to have felt physically threatened by a piece of paper.  

— Dean Barlett, second-year philosophy student


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