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Toula Drimonis: Speech should be free — even for this creep

Many of you have probably heard about Julien Blanc, or perhaps #chokinggirlsaroundtheworld. You’ve likely also heard that there’s been a movement within several countries to have him banned: Take Down Julien Blanc. Australians were successful in their efforts and Mr. Blanc has been banned from the country, Japan and Canada currently have petitions circulating which seek the same result.

So here’s the question: is what Mr. Blanc doing in his seminars a case for free speech?

According to Toula Drimonis at National Post, it is. As she puts it “My right to express myself entails my right to offend you. Even as a staunch feminist, I simply don’t believe in censorship as a solution.”

So here’s my question: Is teaching men to shove a woman’s face into their crotch offensive or an act of abuse? It turns out that Freedom of Speech in Canada is a little loose in its definition, as in there aren’t very clear cut lines around it.

As the University of Alberta’s Centre for Constitutional Studies describes it: In R. v. Keegstra, ([1990] 3 S.C.R. 697) the Supreme Court of Canada identified three main objectives underlying the guarantee of free expression. First, free expression is “instrumental in promoting the free flow of ideas essential to democracy and the functioning of democratic institutions.” Secondly, free expression is “an essential precondition of the search for truth.” Thirdly, free expression is “worth protecting for its intrinsic value to the self-realization of both speaker and listener.”

What part of teaching men how to harass women into going on dates with them is part of a free flow of idea, or an essential precondition of the search for truth, or worth protecting for its intrinsic value to the self-realization of both the speaker and listener? Oh.. well.. if you’re one of the people taking Mr. Blanc’s classes, then perhaps the third may apply to you.

Which is where Toula Drimonis’ article comes back into play. As she so beautifully points out:

“Men such as Julien Blanc exist because they cater to a real market: men who still believe that degrading and manipulating a woman will get them what they want. Perhaps these men represent the last, dying embers of a pathetic breed. But they exist, and they’re around us, whispering the sweetest of feminist words as a cover for their predations. The Jian Ghomeshi revelations are instructive here. These men hide in plain sight, and they treat women as trophies.”

/EMH

Originally published by The National Post on November 14, 2014. Written by Toula Drimonis.

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Toula Drimonis: Speech should be free — even for this creep

Toula Drimonis, Special to National Post | November 14, 2014 | Last Updated:Nov 14 7:00 AM ET

I may be a staunch feminist. But I simply don’t believe in censorship as a solution.

I may be a staunch feminist. But I simply don’t believe in censorship as a solution.

Education, not censorship, is the answer to men like Julien Blanc.By now, many readers probably have heard of the professional U.S. pick-up artist and self-proclaimed “PhD in female attraction.” He’s created quite a commotion on Twitter, raising the ire of thousands around the world with his sleazy seminars on how to seduce women.

This summer, I had my first run-in with a pick-up-artist-in training. I was walking through Toronto’s Eaton Centre on my way from a local radio station, and by all accounts I certainly looked the part for radio. Which was why I couldn’t understand why this random guy was suddenly complimenting me on my wrinkled skirt and probably-smudged makeup.

“Huh?” I said. “Oh, um, thanks.”

“So, where are you heading?” he said. The guy was probably two or three years my junior, with a short haircut, a wrist cuff, skinny jeans and semi-closed eyes that seemingly never stopped to blink, or look away. The tone of his voice came off as artificially steady, like he was counting half a beat between each syllable in his head.

Billed as a “dating coach” by his U.S. employer, Real Social Dynamics, Blanc travels the world giving pick-up artistry seminars on how to lie, manipulate and con your way into a woman’s heart and bed.

Blanc also has posted videos of him promoting sexual harassment and forced sexual aggression on women (e.g., pushing them towards his crotch), choke-holding them and using the hashtag “#ChokingGirlsAroundTheWorld.”

As a result, he was recently kicked out of Australia after the immigration minister cancelled his visa. Japan currently has an online petition to prevent him from re-entering the country, and a few similar petitions are picking up steam here in Canada. A Twitter hashtag, #TakeDownJulienBlanc, has been shared widely since it was launched by Washington, D.C.-based activist Jenn Li.

Canadian Immigration Minister Chris Alexander has acknowledged the petition on Twitter and called Blanc’s seminars “completely counter to Canadian values and common decency,” indicating that the government may indeed take measures to prevent him from giving his seminars in Canada.

A number of opinion pieces have been written, urging the Canadian government to ban a blatantly misogynistic man who’s attempting to normalize sexual violence against women. And I can understand the desire to censor what Blanc has to say by turning him back at the border. There is nothing I support about his message. Except his right to share it.

Here’s the deal: You can’t support free speech selectively. The purpose of this right is not to protect popular speech (which doesn’t need protecting anyway) but to protect speech that is unpopular, perceived as “wrong,” possibly offensive or even hurtful.

My right to express myself entails my right to offend you. Even as a staunch feminist, I simply don’t believe in censorship as a solution.

If we are to make any headway in the fight for equality, we instead need to look at the root causes of such phenomena, and chip away at everything that allows men like Julien Blanc to find a market for their “expertise.”

What should most worry us here is not one professional creep giving the seminars, but the many men so misguided, so incapable of seeing women as deserving-of-respect human beings, and so terribly misinformed about basic human relationships, that they are willing to spend upwards of $3,000 to listen to the drivel of a guy who teaches us that shoving your crotch in a woman’s face is going to make her fall madly in love with you.

It’s not by banning this sort of expression that we eradicate the underlying attitude. Such material deserves the full, unflinching glare of sunlight, whereby it can be methodically refuted and destroyed.

Men such as Julien Blanc exist because they cater to a real market: men who still believe that degrading and manipulating a woman will get them what they want. Perhaps these men represent the last, dying embers of a pathetic breed. But they exist, and they’re around us, whispering the sweetest of feminist words as a cover for their predations. The Jian Ghomeshi revelations are instructive here. These men hide in plain sight, and they treat women as trophies.

Preventing Julien Blanc from entering the country and speaking his mind won’t prevent the sexism and misogyny that women experience on a daily basis. The trick is to let them speak and show their colours, to let the misguided ones spend their money on dubious tricks of seduction. And then to humiliate them and discredit them. Publicly and mercilessly.

It is now unclear as to whether Blanc will actually follow through with his scheduled speaking gigs in Canada. Personally, I would welcome the opportunity to be there to loudly and vocally denounce him for the offensive buffoon that he is.