A Personal Reply to Queen Mary & Barts and the London Conservative Society
Debate. Discussion. Passionate and informed sharing of points of view is at the core of engagement, decision making and democracy. A good debate can have reverberations around the world. It can set a group of people onto a trajectory, for better or worse, towards mass change. The power of debate should never be underestimated. It is indeed because of that power that I felt it necessary to make a few key points on the nature of debate.
When you get up on a podium as a defender of your viewpoint, you implicitly acknowledge that the opposing viewpoint is equally valid as your own. It is a viewpoint worth engaging with, examining and debating it's merit. It is why certain debates which for the sake of controversy take controversial viewpoints, are immediately counterproductive. I would never stand on a podium and debate with someone as to whether Homosexuality should be legal, or whether Interracial Marriage should be allowed. By pursuing that debate, by sharing a podium I am implicitly conceding that the opposing viewpoint is as equally valid as my own. I would not, because they are not.
It is why I was disappointed to see that Queen's Mary Conservatives were hosting a debate on whether Feminism Has Gone Too Far. The debate clearly is seeking controversy, but at what cost? At a time when the opponents of women's equal rights are ever more vocal, when abuse against women is endemic, is it really worthwhile giving a podium to potentially more anti-women rhetoric? I have no doubt that Queen's Mary Conservatives will field speakers against the point, and will make impassioned and valid points as to why feminism is so necessary. But what of the other side?
But beyond that I have no desire to push, petition and clamour for the closing of the debate. Free Speech is indeed a right, but of course also it is a responsibility. It is important to remember that one's own speech has consequence. It is always worthwhile examining whether what we are saying is worth saying.