Hundreds of Students Protest Female Speaker’s Invite Over Concerns It’s Too ‘Dangerous’

More than 300 students at Elon University have signed a petition asking the school to disinvite a conservative Pulitzer Prize–winning author, Kathleen Parker, from speaking on their campus in October.

In the petition, the students claim to “have discovered very disturbing things” about Parker, and state that they are “desperately asking our faculty and staff allies to aid us in removing Parker and stopping her from spreading her dangerous rhetoric through the school we love and cherish.”

The petition takes particular issue with the content of Parker’s 2008 book, Save the Males: Why Men Matter, Why Women Should Care, and in Washington Post columns titled “Sex after drinking and the war on men” and “Unanswered questions in Trayvon Martin case.”

In covering this controversy, a lot of conservative columnists have taken the time to argue that Parker isn’t even really as radically “conservative” as the petition makes her out to be. For example, the Daily Caller’s Peter Hasson wrote that “Parker . . . isn’t exactly right-wing — just last week she compared Donald Trump to Hitler.) Campus Reform’s William Rierson points out that Parker describes herself as “slightly to the right of center.”

But I’m not going to get into that. To me, engaging in some kind of nuanced discussion about whether Parker is just “kind of conservative” or “super-super, hide your kids, hide-your-wives-in-the-kitchen ultra conservative” distracts from the real issue here: namely, the fact that so many students simply don’t understand the importance of being able to engage with views that they disagree with (like Parker’s) on campus, especially when those views (like Parker’s) are already so prevalent in the outside world.

After all, Parker is not just some slurring, shouting wino on the street. She’s not someone who, had she not been invited to campus, could have otherwise only been heard at KKK meetings or read in comments sections on Men’s Rights Reddit. Far from it — her columns are published in more than 450 newspapers nationwide, which, as the school’s bio points out, “translates to about 80 million print readers and countless millions online.” She’s a regular guest on NBC, Fox News, and, yes, even MSNBC.

It’s fine to have problems with Parker. In fact, as someone who holds the view that sexism is, in general, (gasp!) a bigger problem for women than it is for men, I’m sure that I myself would disagree with her on at least a few issues. But here’s the thing: Parker’s views are, by definition, mainstream. They’re being published on hundreds platforms; they’re being read and watched by tens of millions of readers and viewers, and it’s absolutely ignorant to think that keeping her off of your tiny campus is going to do anything to keep her views from “spreading” to your classmates. In fact, given Parker’s reach, her views are ones that (whether directly or indirectly) most of the students on that campus have probably already encountered — and certainly ones that they will encounter in the future.

Now, Elon has reportedly refused to cancel the speech, releasing a statement that argues it’s important to invite “speakers to explore issues from diverse points of view, to challenge us to think deeply and critically about important issues of our time.”

#related#This is great news. After all, not only would a cancelation failed to have accomplished what the dissenting students hoped it would, but it also would have deprived those students of a real opportunity to fight against the very views that they consider “dangerous.” For example: They could attend Parker’s speech and ask her tough questions — challenging not only Parker, but also anyone in the crowd who agrees with her, to question their own opinion. They could hold a counter-event. They could write critical op-eds.And if they really do feel this strongly about these issues, they should — because facing and addressing a problem is always a better way to make a difference than running and hiding from it.

Most Popular

National Security & Defense

Leave McMaster Be

About every two months, there are rumors that Gen. H. R. McMaster might be let go as Trump’s national-security adviser (along with many other stellar appointees). The world, however, is a much more logical and predictable place than it was 14 months ago. We’ve restored ties to the Gulf monarchies; Israel ... Read More
Economy & Business

What Kudlow Got Right in 2007

Lawrence Kudlow’s appointment to be director of the National Economic Council has brought out the critics, who have combed through his copious writings to find every wrong call he has made over the decades. One passage that has come in for some ridicule, though, doesn’t deserve it. Here’s Kudlow, writing ... Read More
Film & TV

Love, Simon Outs Hollywood’s Youth Exploitation

Simon (Nick Robinson), the 17-year-old white gay high-school student in Love, Simon, appears to be a comic version of the protagonist in Moonlight. Rather than blatantly copy that Oscar-winning black-gay-victim film, Love, Simon remakes the pathetic Moonlight in the more marketable guise of a sitcom about a ... Read More

Don’t Bork Gina Haspel

President Donald Trump’s pick for CIA director is about to experience a good Borking. No one doubts her professionalism, and she’s been endorsed by Obama intelligence officials. Yet Gina Haspel’s long career at the agency, including extensive work undercover in the field, is getting blotted out by her ... Read More

On the Virtues of Agreeing to Disagree

In the Washington Post, Chuck Lane makes a thoughtful case for reframing the aims of public discourse: “National unity may be beyond our reach; national cohesion is not.” To achieve this cohesion, Lane suggests that we should lower the stakes of contemporary political debates by trying to find compromise ... Read More