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Can we let Marie Henein speak without calling all students “crybabies”?

With winter upon us, it’s time again for newspaper columnists to pile onto the delicate snowflake that is the everyday university student.

Once again students nationwide are being treated to another round of condescension by your everyday opinion writer over the backlash Marie Henein is getting from a proposed speaker event at Bishop’s University. Henein was Jian Ghomeshi’s defence lawyer during the trial that captured the nation’s attention back in March. Jasmine Cormier, a student at St. Francis Xavier University where the event will be live-streamed, argued against Henein’s inclusion in the speaker series in an article for The Xaverian Weekly, saying in a later interview that the event is “a disservice to students who are victims of sexual violence, who should feel safe coming forward, especially on a university campus.”

Cormier’s article quickly caught the attention of people looking for a chance to regurgitate their hate of millennials, and to continue their assault on the idea of trigger warnings. We are reminded by columnists all over the country how we are a generation with no respect for freedom of speech and that universities have become a place where ideas go to die.

And I’m not painting in broad strokes either. Here’s a few examples of some of the hyperboles that are actually being spewed: Sun Media columnist Anthony Furey tweeted that “delicate snowflakes on campus can’t handle being around strong women.” Joining him is Rosie DiManno from The Toronto Star, writing that “the trend towards squelching free speech… is deplorable. We are awash in expression coercion as an antidote for hurt feelings and “triggering” trauma.”

So many people are pointing so many fingers over this controversy. Cormier is pointing at Henein at perpetuating rape culture and sanctimonious columnists are pointing their fingers at trigger warnings and students as a whole not understanding what freedom of speech is. If I may indulge in some finger pointing of my own and identify the real culprit at hand, which is this alarming tendency to view things as a dichotomy; that you have to be for or against social justice or any other particular ideology.

I will staunchly defend the practice of trigger warnings and creating safe spaces, but I do think the backlash against Henein is misguided, and despite what you might think there isn’t anything contradictory about that.

It’s important to be able to criticize the left as well as defend it. We should criticize the times where leftist activism alienates more people than it ought to, and we should ridicule the people who paint this absurd picture of politically correct liberal Gestapos marching around burning books in the name of making safe spaces. It’s not hypocritical to do both and they’re not mutually exclusive.

And we can think Ghomeshi is a lying, woman-abusing scumbag without having to take it out on his defense lawyer, a woman of colour with many accomplishments in her field who was simply doing her job.

Nathan Fung

Nathan Fung is a sixth-year political science student and The Gateway's news editor for the 2018-19 year. He can usually be found in the Gateway office, turning coffee into copy.

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