Louise Mensch at Cambridge Union: ‘I’m a feminist and I don’t give a fuck what you say’
‘There are no safe spaces when I’m around’
Last night The Tab spoke feminism, safe spaces and censorship with Louise Mensch – chick lit author, blogger, former Conservative MP and feminist.
She kicked off her Union speech in support of the motion that “Oxbridge is a finishing school for the privileged” with the admission she thought she would be opposing the motion until three days ago – a speedy way to grasp the attention of a chamber bored by platitudes of education, education, education.
It’s obvious Louise – a former member of the Oxford Union – hasn’t forgotten her days as a student debater. She captivated the entire Union with her frank and funny opinions.
In the chamber, she declared that Oxbridge was in fact a “finishing school for the privileged” – but not for the usual reasons trotted out. The privilege we all have in common, she said, is that we all “won the genetic lottery”.
She said: “We are smart. That’s privilege and not something you boast about.”
She told The Tab she believes in greater access opportunities to Oxbridge, calling the motion “all very worthy”.
On Oxbridge’s “political dialogue”in Oxbridge, she told the chamber: “There are no safe spaces when I’m around”. Louse also spoke about No Offence, the magazine banned from the Oxford Freshers’ Fair for fear it might give “give offence”.
One story in the magazine argued you couldn’t be pro-life and feminist, prompting Louise to interrupt: “Of course you can. I am.”
“I would totally start a rival publication,” she said, “called All Offence, which I encourage Oxonians to do, and if they’re not doing it then it’s not the same university I used to be at.” She says she believes offence is taken, not given. And that it’s not her job, nor anyone else’s, to police others’ capacity to be offended.
Mensch also spoke on media censorship, in the same week a free speech event was cancelled at Manchester after both its speakers were banned by the SU.
“Well that’s always a sign of confidence in your position – that you won’t let anyone else speak.
“Media censorship is fundamentally wicked and those responsible for it , even in a student environment, are evil and weak.
“If you censor anything, except things which directly incite violence, by which I mean beheading videos, child porn, any other idea or expression of an idea, no matter how vile it is, it’s up to you to defeat, not prevent from being said, and if you don’t like it, stay home.”
What about feminism? Louise tells the Union stridently she’s a feminist and doesn’t “give a fuck what you say”, censorship is fundamentally un-feminist, and no feminist she knows would endorse it – “not in my bloody name anyway”.
She refuses to allow what she calls “the current toxic nature of the feminist brand” to make her position as a conservative and a feminist untenable.
She explained: “Conservatives believe in equality of opportunity, socialists believe in equality of outcome – that means therefore that feminism is a fundamentally conservative proposition.
“If you’re into equality of opportunity how can you not be a conservative? They are flipsides of the same coin.”
Micro-aggressions? Safe spaces? Both pretty prominent, if not the most prominent, issues in the Oxbridge feminism dialogue, and Mensch does not shy away from a reality check: “Women are terrorists in Saudi Arabia for trying to drive, women are being traded into sex slavery – and that’s what needs to be looked at, ladies – not your micro-bloody-aggressions.
She tells us the current feminist climate, especially across our universities, is nothing more than “selfish Western occidentalism”. Not hesitant from harsh criticism, she endeavoured to put priorities into perspective.
“You are looking at your navel and going on and on about safe spaces on campuses when actually women have fundamental rights that need to be fought for, but you’re too busy banning pro-life activists from speaking at your student union.
“Go fuck yourself.”
While Louise didn’t stray far from the all-important theme that fuckers should go fuck themselves, she also couldn’t conceal her excitement for our Tab t-shirts.
In a heartening endorsement of our brand of student journalism, she tells the Tab to “rock on”.
To the university, she says: “Stop checking your privilege and start using it to help those who need it.”