#Smurthgate: feminist censoriousness will eat itself
A feminist comedian has been ‘banned’ by a students’ union. How ironic.
On Sunday evening, Goldsmiths Students’ Union (GSU) and the Goldsmiths Comedy Society pulled the plug on an upcoming gig by feminist comedian Kate Smurthwaite. Smurthwaite’s comedy show, ‘Leftie Cock Womble’, is almost as excruciating to say as it is to count the number of tickets it sold (eight). Smurthwaite, who cites ‘freedom of speech’ as one of her comic topics, has since used the hashtag #Smurthgate on Twitter in an attempt to rally feminist support.
The irony of it all is startling. While Smurthwaite and her feminist-hued supporters are positioning her as the latest victim of joyless student censorship, feminists themselves have been at the forefront of demanding the censure of anything they don’t like on campus – from saucy newspapers to laddish banter to ‘dangerous’ comedians. All of this raises the question: did feminists really think they could unleash such a sweeping, censorious dynamic and not eventually be consumed by it?
Goldsmiths, in London, is undoubtedly a hostile environment for freedom of speech. Having received a Red ranking in spiked’s Free Speech University Rankings, GSU’s decision to potentially ban an external speaker/comedian seems in keeping with its No Platform and Safe Space policies. According to GSU, the cancellation was a matter of ticket sales and not the potential controversy caused by Smurthwaite, the self-styled ‘cunt-wielding patriarchy smasher‘. This seems to be more of a ‘freedom to pick a funny comedian’ than a freedom-of-speech issue.
The double standards at work in a feminist complaint about censorship are striking. In November last year, a group of feminists called WomCam shut down a debate on abortion at the University of Oxford because it featured an all-male panel, while at Cardiff University, a feminist launched a successful Change.org petition to cancel a performance by pull-happy comedian Dapper Laughs. Both were seen to be offensive and dangerous to women; the first, because the speakers had no vaginas, and the second because the speaker claimed to have had too many.
So it is a bit weird reading tweets from angry feminists railing against the authoritarian nature of the alleged banning of Smurthwaite. One even tweeted, ‘I bet they don’t put comedians with penises through this kind of rigmarole’. Are feminists blind to their own hypocrisy? Dapper Laughs had a penis, right? In fact, over the past four years, feministy students have been on the offence offensive, from campaigning to ban lads’ mags and the Sun, to calling for a ban on the use of incorrectly gendered pronouns. Little wonder spiked’s Free Speech University Rankings showed that 80 per cent of universities restrict freedom of speech. Having banned individual speakers, posters, leaflets, t-shirts, jokes, drinks, pop songs and anything else not in keeping with their tastes, feminists now seem to be calling foul play on their own game.
The bizarre double standards of today’s feminist movement seem to have returned to bite them in the fanny. Having demanded the banning of ‘things they don’t like’, be it Page 3 or laddish comedians, feminists are now on the receiving end of the very censorious dynamic they helped foment. That so many feminists are so self-involved and arrogant as to believe they can control what is censored and what is not is symptomatic of the pathetic, intolerant worldview prevalent in student and feminist circles. Forget a funny bone, those now rallying to Smurthwaite’s cause could do with a backbone.
Ella Whelan is a writer based in London.