Gender and Sexuality

Schmit: Milo Yiannopoulos’ anti-feminist college tour sustained by complacent students

If you’re into guys who look like Jonathan Groff after he went through a series of failed Botox treatments prior to bleaching his hair in the gas station bathroom, then you might like Milo Yiannopoulos — the 32-year-old pretty boy who dropped out of college twice before becoming a social media celebrity and self-proclaimed journalist in the United Kingdom.

While in truth simply a glorified sexist Internet troll, Yiannopoulos is unfortunately gaining power with his inflated rhetoric.

The issue, however, is that even though he can be dismissed as another meninist, his preachings have not fallen on deaf ears. Yiannopoulos can currently be found speaking at U.S. colleges and universities on what he calls his “Dangerous Faggot Tour,” where he argues that feminism limits free speech.

Yiannopoulos’ career ultimately stems from the misunderstanding of the feminist agenda. And although his rants probably won’t be heard on Syracuse University’s campus, the fact that he is able to tour extensively at institutions of higher education with his lunacy points to the apathy of millennial’s politically correct, or PC, attitudes.

Because PC culture has silenced the opinions of young people today, there is a lack of conversation and overall action, be it positive or negative. And when people are afraid to speak up, people like Yiannopoulos, who aren’t afraid, will get popular by getting up on a soapbox and spewing hate before the curious minds of tomorrow.

Socially conscious college students should speak up on behalf people with marginalized genders and sexualities against sexist, homophobic people like Yiannopoulos, and safe spaces can be the place to do that.

After confirming its own date of Yiannopoulos’ tour, the University of Michigan attempted to combat this lack of tolerance by announcing the creation of a safe space to protect students who were frightened by the debate. Yiannopoulos’ conservative fan base then mocked the UofM feminist safe space as an example of overly PC college students being unnecessarily appeased by their administration through liberal reasoning.

While safe spaces are typically characteristic of “politically correct” college communities, they can actually combat the negative effects of PC culture. Places that encourage critical dialogue in an environment that is welcoming to women and LGBT individuals can ultimately help to foster a discourse and a tangible movement against those with views of Yiannopoulos. And apart from merely contributing to feminist activism among young people, safe spaces can provide emotional comfort in light of hateful speakers — putting the “safe” in safe spaces.

Women and LGBT individuals attending colleges and universities on Yiannopoulos’ list are right to be fearful of the self-proclaimed most fabulous supervillain on the Internet.”

Not only does Yiannopoulos proclaim his idiotic sermon of hate against women at numerous colleges, he also has created a so-called “privilege grant,” which exclusively awards $2,500 in scholarship money to “white men who wish to pursue post-secondary education on equal footing with their female, queer and ethnic minority classmates” — because nothing quite says privilege like getting money for being privileged.

As a gay man, Yiannopoulos’ hatred focused almost solely on marginalized groups speaks to an utterly illogical kind of prejudice.

While Yiannopoulos, an avid Donald Trump supporter — go figure — had been in the media spotlight for some time prior, his anti-feminist campaign really began to take off with his involvement in Gamergate, the harassment that stemmed from sexist attitudes against progressivism in video game culture, back in 2014.

In an online essay during the controversy, Yiannopoulos described gaming as under attack by an “army of sociopathic feminist programmers and campaigners” who are “lying, bullying and manipulating their way around the Internet for profit and attention.” Classy.

It’s clear that the popularity of Yiannopoulos’ particular brand of anti-feminism stems from the negative connotation that the feminist movement has obtained.

While a simple Google search of the word could tell you that feminism does not mean anti-men in any regard but rather equality in all terms — be it gender, race, class and so forth — the impression that sticks is a radically anti-men view of the world. Even though the movement isn’t focused on oppressing any group, in taking action often comes a need for intense activism.

This is reinforced by the fact that according to a new survey by YouGov, less than a third of American women regarding themselves as feminists, many rejecting the label for being “too extreme.”

Meanwhile even though Yiannopoulos holds an overall vulgar and honestly-just-nauseating opinion, it stands as a topic for conversation, regardless of the view of his character. So while his immoralistic rantings are approaching those of Trump’s, it must be acknowledged by feminists and anti-feminists alike that Yiannopoulos definitely understands that words can wield a lot of power.

If nothing else, socially-aware college students should take note of Yiannopoulos’ bold style of communication to counter his own. Being respectful is key, but raising your voice is also crucial when standing up to homophobia and the patriarchy.

Brontë Schmit is a sophomore magazine journalism major and marketing, english and textual studies, and LGBT Studies minor. Her column appears weekly. She can be reached at bkschmit@syr.edu and followed on Twitter @brontekincaid.

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