Student union bans feminist from free speech event

Another student union has come under fire for banning a feminist activist from a free speech event, claiming her views may “incite hatred”.

The University of Manchester Students’ Union cancelled the Free Speech and Secular Society’s invitation to Julie Bindel to speak at an event entitled: “From liberation to censorship: does modern feminism have a problem with free speech?”

The students’ union banned Bindel on account of its ‘safe space’ policy, as her views and comments towards transsexual people “could incite hatred towards and exclusion of our trans students”.


In an article for The Guardian in 2004, Bindel questioned the right of men who have sex-change surgery to be treated as women.

Bindel responded on Twitter: “So my latest ban shows without doubt that I am not allowed to speak on ANY topic at all at these Unis because I am accused of transphobia”.


Without this freedom we are… diminished as people and as students.

Free Speech andSecular Society

“Therefore I am banned from speaking about feminism, sexuality, male violence, everything in fact that I am expert in. It is my presence that is considered so offensive as to make students feel ‘unsafe’ when I spend my life trying to make it safer for women and girls. Fab.”

A petition has been started to overturn the ban for both speakers, and has reached nearly 2,000 signatures.

The university’s Free Speech and Secular Society, which was hosting the event, said the ban was “illiberal”.

Inalienable right

“Free speech is not just an abstract concept debated upon in academic circles. It is a discernable and essential good, as well as an inalienable right for one and all”, the group said.

“We simply argue that the freedom to express a controversial or challenging opinion is held equally and by all.

“Without this freedom we are robbed of the ability to refute or confirm the views that we have formed, and are thus diminished as people and as students.”

Free speech policy

According to The Times, a spokesman for the University of Manchester said it was looking into whether the ban contradicted its own free speech policy.

Last month, Warwick University Students’ Union reversed its decision to ban an anti-Islamic State speaker, because she might offend Muslims, following a public backlash.

A campaign supported by The Christian Institute, the National Secular Society and Big Brother Watch has been launched to oppose Extremism Disruption Orders because they could restrict free speech.

The website gives up-to-date information about the campaign, and helps people to contact their MP about the proposals.

Related Resources