As the debate and outrage surrounding former Breitbart Senior Editor Milo Yiannopoulos intensifies across the country, a voice at UChicago has come out in favor of the man in question. Tenured professor Rachel Fulton Brown claimed that Yiannopoulos’s detractors are the bullies and that he is speaking in the best interest of all people and simply saying what is on everyone’s mind. Her views can be read in a recent blog post, in which she appears to claim that people are sick and tired of the shifting culture that goes against old notions of the gender binary. She agrees with Yiannopoulos that “feminism is cancer,” and that “gender roles work.” While this university has made it clear that it will defend all forms of free speech, this type of rhetoric is entirely unfounded and hurtful to our community.
Brown believes that Yiannopoulos is a “messenger” who speaks for all people. As she argues in her blog post, men and women actually like normative gender roles but are too afraid to speak their opinions. “The young women wanted to be pretty, not grotesquely overweight. The young men wanted to be strong and vigorous and manly,” she writes. “The young women wanted babies as well as careers, and were willing to make adjustments to their ambition in order to stay home with their children. The young men wanted to be challenged to be gentlemanly and chivalrous.”
Somehow, the “national media” was a bully who told men and women that they weren’t allowed to inhabit these roles. But, thanks to the grace of Yiannopoulos, he told the general public that they were right all along to believe in normative and oppressive gender roles. Her argument is in part done as a charge against what they see as an overly emotional and sensitive left. But, by pitting Yiannopoulos as a victim of bullying, she diminishes the harm that he has done to minorities, the LGBTQ+ community, and sexual assault survivors.
I would be shocked and saddened to learn that anyone I know condoned somebody who referenced consent as “an arbitrary and oppressive idea,” let alone somebody who works on a college campus, where there is a heightened risk of sexual violence. This is why these comments of support from a UChicago professor are all the more upsetting. She is actively participating in a rhetoric that diminishes the experiences of many students on this campus. By aligning herself with Yiannopoulos, she has decided to take a stance against the campus community, one that is incredibly diverse and faces a number of issues that Yiannopoulos and Brown don’t seem to comprehend. Brown’s rhetoric and her support of Yiannopoulos is akin to hate; it is up to the community on campus to call out this kind of hatred.
So let the “bullies” that Brown refers to keep their voices loud. By questioning the bigotry coming from Yiannopoulos and his cronies at Breitbart, people are able to make sure that the claims coming from their platforms don’t gain traction. While some argue that denying voices like Yiannopoulos’s and Brown’s is a function of an intolerant left unable to deal with opinions that are not aligned with their own worldview, this is a kind of perverse moral relativism. It is important to understand what those on the other side of the political spectrum are saying, but we must never accept bigotry as a valid form of discourse.
Andrew Nicotra Reilly is a third-year in the College majoring in economics and political science.