Smith reacts to anti-gay bigot

Last night Ryan Sorba, an “anti-homosexual activist” spoke at Smith College. Sorba, the author of the upcoming book, “The Born Gay Hoax,” (yes, seriously) can been seen in action here. The awesome feminists of Smith forced Sorba out after a mere twenty minutes of speaking, when he was drowned out by protesters.

Pam has more.
Thanks to Diana and Anne for the heads up!

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87 Comments

  1. Posted April 30, 2008 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    Hells Yes!

  2. ann bran
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    This leads me to wonder what he was doing at Smith in the first place. I don’t know much about Smith, but it doesn’t seem like those ladies would be his target audience. I know we at Mills would react similarly to the Smith students if he came here.
    So why was he there?

  3. Faerylore
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    Ann bran, trying to save the sinners bent on going to hell as throughly as possible, I think.
    Anyway, this totally brightened my day. Listening to the asshat was kind of a trip too. “Endemic” indeed, does he really have to pull out the ‘you’re just being trendy’ idea? I mean seriously, do these people realize how imbecilic their arguments sound when they speak?
    “The born gay hoax was invented in 1985 by pro-sodomy activists in effort to overturn anti-sodomy laws by way of minority status. No one is born ‘gay’-the idea is ridiculous.”
    You know what’s ridiculous? Pretending that it actually matters whether sexuality (excuse me, ‘sexual deviance’) is innate, a choice, or some more fluid mixture of a sundry of things. Last I checked, it isn’t hurting anybody, and I’m gonna do as I damn well please, thank you. Though I love that I’m to blame for the end of civilization, God, and probably kittens too. (And this wouldn’t be complete w/o a reference to DTWOF.) You’ve got a lot of nerve, blaming your crack-smoking children on me.
    On the other hand, I’ve always wanted to be kind of sexually deviant…

  4. Posted April 30, 2008 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    Is shouting down an opponent, even one with very objectionable views and rhetoric, something to be applauded?
    I always hear conservatives gripe about how liberal academia silences their perspective. Usually I think this is complete nonsense. But sometimes we on the left do simply shut down right wing perspectives out of anger and frustration. A similar thing happened with the minutemen at Columbia last year. I’m not sure this “shout them out of town” reaction is something condone.
    Thoughts?

  5. annajcook
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    This leads me to wonder what he was doing at Smith in the first place.
    According to Pam’s post, the college Republicans invited him.
    I had a similar thing happen my first year in undergrad–the chapel program (don’t get me started) invited another “ex-gay” guy to speak at chapel as part of a series on Christian sexuality. In response, the women’s studies department and a coalition of other groups brought in Mel White, who’s an evangelical minister and openly gay. I know there’s a fine line between free speech and hate speech, but it seems like protesting outside the event, asking challenging questiond during Q&A, and providing alternative viewpoints, etc. is one thing, but disrupting a campus event so much that it has to be shut down is another . . . I don’t like the precedent it sets.

  6. Faerylore
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    Blake, he might have the right to say such things in public (walking a tight rope on hate speech though), but in that same vein, I and a bunch of my friends also have the right to shout “We here, we’re queer, get used it it”. I don’t think the right to free speech extends to not getting interupted or talked over by somebody else.

  7. cheekykitten
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    That guy is full of shit, but I’d hate to think about the same thing happening if one of us gave a pro-gay rights speech. Remember a few months ago when anti-choicers tried to disrupt a Clinton speech about abortion? If he hadn’t been such a skilled speaker, that rally could easily have turned ugly. I’m glad somebody told this guy at Smith to STFU, but come on.

  8. Annie
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    Faerylore, I totally agree with you–it makes me really upset when people on campus and on the internet claim that we were violating Ryan Sorba’s right to free speech, that our behavior was inappropriate, that they’re ashamed of Smith. It wasn’t about silencing an objectionable opinion. It wasn’t about us simply disagreeing with what he had to say. It was about preserving a space where young queer women are (relatively) free to express themselves. If he has the right to tell a whole community that they are illegitimate, then we have the right to tell him that he is not welcome on our campus. Yes, he has a ‘right’ to speak, but that doesn’t mean that we have to be silent so that he can be heard.

  9. Ayla
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    TO the people who say that he should have been left alone and allowed to speak because of the precedent it sets or because the right wing nut jobs will use the story for their own benefit:
    Would you say the same thing if the speaker had been a KKK member who wrote a book about how black people are supposedly less evolved, less intelligent and more prone to violence than white people? Like anti-gay propaganda, racist propaganda is based on non-scientific “studies,” flawed papers and straight up lies. If a group of black students showed up and chanted some anti-racist slogans until the hate monger left town, would you blame them?
    No…?
    Then why are you blaming the homosexual students for doing the same thing?

  10. zoelawgirl
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    who IS this guy anyway? i just tried to google him and i didn’t really get a clear picture. i mean, what is all of this research that he’s done. i have never heard of this book before. i’m very curious.
    nothing annoys me more than conservative students whining about being silenced by liberals at their schools. then they go and invite the most polarizing possible figure to come represent their viewpoint on campus. clearly they are just trying to shock people into hearing them out. i went to an extremely liberal college for my undergraduate degree and it happened all the time. conservative student groups should make a good faith effort to join the discussion– not just try to inflame the liberals. i really could not think of a reason smith college conservatives would invite this guy if it was not to get an inflammatory response.

  11. Posted April 30, 2008 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    Would you say the same thing if the speaker had been a KKK member who wrote a book about how black people are supposedly less evolved, less intelligent and more prone to violence than white people?
    Probably I’d say you should invite your own speaker to refute his or her points.
    Shouting someone down is the basest form of speech, and only addresses the issue of whether the target is “welcome.” It doesn’t do a whole lot to address whatever lies or disinformation that person is spreading.

  12. AK
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    As a current Smith student, I want to add that unfortunately the protest (and particularly the way it was handled by protesters) itself has become very controversial on campus.
    Many students wanted a silent protest, and others wanted to protest through discussion during the Q&A period following Sorba’s speech, but those were overpowered by the “riot” type protest. I’ve even heard people say they are ashamed of the reaction.
    He’s apparently promoting a new book, and I’m sure this will get him plenty of media attention.

  13. annajcook
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    Ayla,
    I’m still not sure what I think, one way or another–I think the questions of who should be able to speak depends a lot on the context. In this situation, I think the larger question is who invited him to campus in the first place, and whether the administration should have perhaps put the breaks on even if he was invited by students. Although that, itself, is problematic from a student-free-speech point of view.
    And I can only speak for myself as a white, bi woman, but in my own experience I think I was glad–on my own campus–that these things got talked about rather than silenced (on either side), even when it was painful. I don’t know what I would say about a KKK speaker. I think protest is appropriate, and I think challenging the organization that brought that person to campus is appropriate. I’m not sure about a protest that shuts down the event as it is happening.
    Again, I’m open to thoughts. But I think the censorship question is a real one–even (perhaps especially?) when we abhor the thoughts of the people who wish to speak.

  14. Barbara
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    This is the best day ever! I and the GSA at my highschool successfully pulled off our Day of Silence today without incident (despite the administration’s wish to stop the event from happening). I also found out that our GSA is receiving grant money so that we can hire public speakers to come to our health classes and discuss, you know, the EXISTANCE of other sexual orientations and gender identities and about nondiscrimination.
    and now I come home to this!!! A big congradulations to the Smith students. They have the right to show Sorba where his homophobic and hateful ideas are not welcome. It was empowering and wonderful to just watch them stand together and declare, unapologetically, “we’re here, we’re queer, get used to it!”

  15. Ayla
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    How many times do you have to debunk the same baseless info before you’re allowed to stop listening to the people spewing it? This same stuff has been flying around for at least the last 10 years (and longer I’m sure), because it was 10 years ago last December that my best friend was sent (by his parents) to a christian program to “turn him straight” and the basis of this book sounds pretty much just like the crap they were trying to brainwash him with back then.

  16. Posted April 30, 2008 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

    Annie: I don’t think this is a free speech issue: Sorba had the right to say his piece, and Smith students had the right to shout him down. It’s an issue of valuing tolerance and reasoned debate, and of effectively countering the rhetoric of homophobic conservatives. Tolerance and debate are valuable because they expose all claims to reason, so that whoever’s right is shown to be right.
    Tolerance and debate are also politically expedient for liberals. Shouting conservatives down creates the impression that we’re not secure enough in our beliefs to actually provide arguments defending them. It makes it seem like liberals can’t tolerate intellectual diversity. It also feeds the conservative fantasy of a “culture war” in which dialogue stops and right and left compete for domination of the public sphere. Being open to debate–and winning debates–shows that our appreciation for diversity and openness is genuine, and that we are on the right side of the issues.
    I’m not at Smith, so I don’t know all the context. And I’m not gay, so I can’t fully appreciate how someone like Sorba would make members of the gay community there feel. Nonetheless, from afar, I think it was a mistake to choose disruptive protest over debate. Now Sorba can go home and tell all his conservative friends about his battle on the front lines of the culture war, and about how liberals can’t tolerate any opinions but their own.

  17. Amandasaurus
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    I am proud of the women of Smith for standing up to this guy’s archaic, idiotic ideas, but also agree that it could have been done through reasonable debate. Yet, I’ll flip back to the other side and say that what this guy has to say is not intellectual diversity. He’s not discussing how our economy should be dealt with, he’s saying that my way of life is, in essence, a complete lie. It’s not about liberals’ ability to tolerate opinion; as far as im concerned, sexuality has no room for opinion. I might as well walk up to every blonde on the street and tell them i disagree with their haircolor, whether they were born with it or dyed it last week.
    Silence is a form of activism. If you stay silent when someone bashes a gay or speaks a racial slur, you are silently accepting their decision. So whether it was through a screaming protest or reasonable debate, these women did the right thing in letting Sorba know they do not accept his ideas.
    Congrats to the women of Smith for standing up for their beliefs…and for staying true to Audre Lorde…
    “When we speak, we are afraid our words will not be heard nor welcomed but when we are silent we are still afraid. So it is better to speak remembering we were never meant to survive.” -AL

  18. Leah Stone
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    I’m more curious as to why the Republican group on campus invited an anti gay activist to fucking Smith.
    Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to go there. But come on. The rumours aren’t 100% false.

  19. Leah Stone
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    I’m more curious as to why the Republican group on campus invited an anti gay activist to fucking Smith.
    Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to go there. But come on. The rumours aren’t 100% false.

  20. Underdog
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    I am frankly disappointed about this protest. Shouting down a speaker accomplishes nothing at all, other than perhaps making the protesters feel satisfied with themselves. It would have been so much more effective for the protesters to have used questions to show the guy how inane he is, or perhaps to have a silent protest, or perhaps to have everyone face away from him, or no doubt many other more creative responses. Or just not show up at the event. Shouting him down is just childish and ineffective. And yes, I would say the same thing in response to a Klan speaker, and have.

  21. Amandasaurus
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    Silence is a form of activism. If you remain silent when someone bashes homosexuality or mutters a racial slur, you are silently accepting their behavior. So whether these Smith women provided a screaming protest or reasoned debate, they had the right to open their mouths and show they did not approve. let’s remember Audre Lorde’s “When we speak, we are afraid our words will not be heard nor welcomed but when we are silent we are still afraid. So it is better to speak remembering we were never meant to survive.”
    Also, let me note that I hardly agree that debate on sexuality has it’s place in “intellectual diversity”. This isnt a discussion on the economy or politics, it’s a discussion on whether someone’s lifestyle is valid.

  22. redKate
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    Awww, Smith College, this makes me miss you more. . . Of course, a couple years ago the Republicans invited Ann Coulter. That did NOT go well.

  23. wandergrrl
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    I wouldn’t say I’m surprised about how this went down. Smith is in the town of Northampton (MA), a town which has a prominently visible & open gay population (I used to live near there AND my out sister lives there now). I would have been much more satisfied to seen some of those students really challenge Sorba with incisive questions and sharp logic.

  24. SarahMC
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

    First, I’m with Ayla.
    We have been fighting this nonsense with reason, logic and compassion for a long time. It’s like politely debating relentless trolls. There comes a point when it’s just as (in)effective to tell them to fuck off.
    Second, why would anyone with Republican leanings choose to attend Smith in the first place?

  25. jamespi
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

    i have to echo some of the posters on this thread, shutting this guy down is not the way to go. Invite a counter-speaker, silently protest, grill him on the Q&A but dont just scream so no one can hear him. He was invited by the school yes? He wasnt just standing somewhere in the quad yelling his views. It accomplishes nothing but to make some people feel good for a bit and give ammo to the wingnuts like the speaker. I know I am far too naieve but damn, if we cant have open discourse at a college, where the heck can we? This guy is a loon in my opinion but as someone else brought up in this thread, if the administration saw fit to invite a Klan member, I’d be all for it as there is nothing better you can do than grill that kind of person and embarass them publicly.

  26. Cha-el-see
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

    I also agree with Ayla here. While this Sorba guy is clearly full of shit and spreading dis-information he still has the right to free speech and those who are interested in hearing him, for whatever reason, have the right to hear to him speak.
    I’m an activist myself and have attended and even helped organize many equal rights and anti-war protests/rallies, so yes, I’m glad to see these students take action. I think these students should invite another speaker to counter Sorba and even organize an open debate. They have every right to rally and make noise outside (which I would’ve have been proud to join) and even protest silently inside, but to shout this man down does infringed on his right to free speech.

  27. acranom
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    What SarahMC said.
    There’s a place for discussion, respectful protest and disagreement and for “incisive questions and sharp logic.” That place is NOT with someone who comes to a community with the simple mission of spewing hate speech. If he came with the intention of a dialog, they owed him one. From what I can tell, that wasn’t the case. Annie said it beautifully, “but that doesn’t mean that we have to be silent so that he can be heard.” They didn’t silence his right to write what he wants or believe what he wants. They were angry at the hate he brought to their community. I think thats fair.

  28. SarahMC
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    Cha-el-see, commenter names appear below their comments. I think you may be in disagreement with Ayla.
    This is not a free speech issue. Unless the government shut down his speech, his rights have not been infringed upon.

  29. cg
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

    No, this has nothing to do with free speech. No government body infringed on his right to speak.
    But, it does have everything to do with civility in the public discourse. Regardless of your opinion of this anti-gay activist’s views (of course, like everyone else, I think that they are unfounded, irrational, hateful, disgusting and infuriating) it degrades us all to shout him down in this manner. Denounce him, yes. Protest, yes. But to actually speak over him in an effort to drown him out is unacceptable. I’d say the same thing regarding a speaker for the KKK or any other group.
    As much as I understand and empathize with the emotions that lead some of Smith’s feminists to do this, frankly I’m a little ashamed of them. The feminist community should be above this sort of thing.

  30. Ayla
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    “The feminist community should be above this sort of thing.”
    I dread the day when feminism will be above passion… above letting people use their voices on their own campus… above coming together to be stronger than the sum of our parts… above being brave enough to yell “we’re queer” in a public place…above calling a spade a spade.

  31. Cha-el-see
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

    *I also agree with Blake here.
    (Whoops. Thanks SarahMC. Clearly, Im a new poster.)
    Well, what I was getting at was his right to speak was not respected and I think it would have been much more effective to go about protesting as suggested. While they succeeded in getting him off the stage they didn’t really prove anything (other than the fact that they didnt welcome him) or change anyones mind.

  32. Posted April 30, 2008 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

    I am one of the chairs of Smith’s feminist organization and I was not at the Sorba lecture, as we are firmly entrenched in our last week of classes, and I felt attending the lecture would just make me upset. However, many of our members were there, and there were three contingents of students who wanted to protest. There were some yelling outside, who got inside, there were some doing a silent protest inside, and there were some at a Love-In in another space on campus to boycott him. I think that all the students have a right to protest, though I too wish that we could’ve protested him without causing us to be viewed badly by fellow activists and other Smithies.
    On the other hand, I am proud of my fellow Smithies for organizing over an issue that is so important to us, regardless of the manner in which they chose to do so, and I’m sick to death of being tolerant of people’s views who hold that my very existence is illegitimate. Smith is a safe space. He doesn’t belong on our campus- he’s not a scientist or an expert, his “facts” are plain wrong, he’s just (to quote a favorite professor) a hater.
    I don’t want a dialog or a discussion with him, I don’t think it’s possible, and he doesn’t matter anyway. If there’s going to be any productive dialog, I would want it with the people who invited him, the Republican organization, our fellow Smithies, for better or for worse.

  33. Cha-el-see
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

    It’s nice to hear from a Smithie knows a bit more about what exactly went on.
    and let it be known that in spite of my critique, I still give kudos. :)

  34. Ninapendamaishi
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

    “Would you say the same thing if the speaker had been a KKK member who wrote a book about how black people are supposedly less evolved, less intelligent and more prone to violence than white people?
    Probably I’d say you should invite your own speaker to refute his or her points. ”
    This is an academic/intellectual ideal.
    But come on, we know this isn’t really how most opinions in the world are contested/formed.
    “Rational debate” usually just becomes repetitive, and the “status quo” will always have the advantage.
    I’m not saying their aren’t cons to shutting down a speaker, and that that might not hurt your cause among certain people. But “rational debate” also has it’s disadvantages, and can obscure certain facts… And “direction action” is also capable of getting some people to think…
    I’m just not for idealizing one approach above the other, all the time… I think they both have their place in a movement.

  35. Ninapendamaishi
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

    gah. *there* and *direct action*

  36. cg
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

    “I dread the day when feminism will be above passion… above letting people use their voices on their own campus… above coming together to be stronger than the sum of our parts… above being brave enough to yell “we’re queer” in a public place…above calling a spade a spade.”
    None of this is an argument for shouting down someone. Feminism must be about all of these things, but it shouldn’t cheapen the public discourse. Let me be clear: Like any feminist (and any decent human being) I don’t simply disagree with the viewpoints of this anti-gay activist, I despise them–the man is a worthless, hateful, harmful, infuriating piece of trash. I applaud the courage and passion of Smith’s feminists in speaking out against him. But, I will never be for silencing someone in this manner.
    Using these kind of tactics cedes the moral high ground and invites your opponent to use them on you. How would the feminists of Smith react if the Republican Club shouted down their next invited speaker such that the event couldn’t go on?

  37. Mina
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    “but to shout this man down does infringed on his right to free speech.”
    By that standard, speaking in a typical tone of voice infringes the right to free speech of anyone speaking with a quieter voice (for example, someone with a very sore throat who doesn’t feel comfortable raising her or his voice).

  38. mnesbit
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

    There was absolutely no room for civilized debate because there was no Q&A session planned.
    On another note, the YAF, a group closely associated with Sorba is officially classified by the SPLC as a hate group. There is no room for hate speech in an academic environment and we are not obligated to host it at our home.

  39. mnesbit
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

    There was absolutely no room for civilized debate because there was no Q&A session planned.
    On another note, the YAF, a group closely associated with Sorba is officially classified by the SPLC as a hate group. There is no room for hate speech in an academic environment and we are not obligated to host it at our home.

  40. WheresTheBeef?
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

    I’m not sure how I feel about this. On one hand, the person is technically allowed to speak, but by shouting them down, you are effectively silencing them and preventing them from saying what they have to say. I don’t agree with that and I don’t think it’s very effective. I remember when Ann Coulter spoke at Smith, a group of students walked out in organized protest. Unfazed, she made a snarky comment, the audience laughed, and the students looked rather foolish. I heard her side, but because the students didn’t engage, I’m not sure what theirs was.
    On the other hand, Ann Coulter is a bigot, a buffoon, and the embodiment of everything that is wrong with today’s political discourse. If engaging her implies that there is anything remotely legitimate about her vitriolic garbage, I want no part in that.
    Still, I think the problem with the Coulters, Horowitzes, and Savages of the world, is that they do have more credibility (deserved or not) than the KKK or what have you. They’re objectionable, but people are listening to them (not sure about this Sorba guy). I think we have to find an effective way to both condemn and challenge their ideas.

  41. SarahMC
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

    While they succeeded in getting him off the stage they didn’t really prove anything

    I disagree. They proved that Smith does not tolerate hate speech.

  42. cg
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

    I absolutely agree with you WheresTheBeef.
    I hope that every student at Smith showed up outside of this event and screamed and shouted until they were hoarse, letting the world know that they would NOT tolerate this and that they would NOT accept this.
    As feminists, we may find Mr. Sorba’s rhetoric to be offensive–we may even classify it as hate speech. But, others will disagree. I’m sure there is no shortage of anti-feminists ready and willing to classify feminist viewpoints as hate speech. If we shout down someone because we find their speech hateful, we invite others to do the same to us because they find our speech hateful.
    I usually find feministing to be a source of self-affirmation, but today I was horrified to scroll down and read a fellow feminist laud a manner of protest that I feel hurts us all.
    Anyway, I think this boils down to a fundamental disagreement so I’m not sure how productive continuing to discuss it would be. As a final thought, I’d just urge everyone, regardless of your opinion, to leave the issue of Free Speech out of this–it has nothing to do with what happened.

  43. Shannon
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

    As a junior at Mount Holyoke who was at the protest, I am 110% proud of all those women [and trans students as well!] who came out to say, enough is enough and we will no longer stand silently by as you spew hate against our very identities and lives. There was no way we could have had “rational discourse” with Sorba – when our very “intellectual” foundations are so very different, i.e. he lacks critical thinking skills and merely repeats already-debunked right-wing garbage, it becomes pointless after awhile.
    Also, how did Smith even get to be an institution that values and promotes sexual diversity? By standing by and keeping our mouths shut? How has any civil rights movement progressed in the U.S.? By refusing to sit down and “play nice”! It comes to a point where we have to assert our rights.
    An incredibly beautiful thing happened last night: LGBTQ students came together to raise some incredible, unified, inspiring energy, and our solidarity with each other spoke *volumes*. It got to the point where it wasn’t even about Ryan Sorba and his ridiculous book – it was about getting together to express our common dignity and be able to have a voice that encouraged and supported each other’s basic right to existence and legitimacy and happiness. I have never in my life been to such an inspiring protest, and I will remember it for the rest of my life. That is what matters to me.

  44. Ellid
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

    I went to Smith, and I could not be prouder of the students who shut this idiot up. Hatred on that level does not deserve an audience, any more than a speech by David Duke would “deserve” a respectful audience at Morehouse. The campus Republicans should be ashamed that they brought this person to Smith at all.

  45. LlesbianLlama
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

    Hello all,
    Amazing to see this linked to on Feministing! I am a Mount Holyoke College student, but my girlfriend and I showed up at Smith [Seven Sister neighbors!] to show solidarity and support for protesters of Ryan Sorba last night. I have never felt passion and energy like that from my fellow peers.
    For those people who do not agree with the method of protest, I understand your concerns. We, too, prize measured debate, intelligent conversation, and open dialog. Unfortunately for all involved, the Smith College Republicans’ choice of speaker did not provide that forum. If you have not seen Sorba’s lecture, feel free to head to Youtube.com and search under his name. There is a recording for a lecture he gave at another college- it seems that he gives the same lecture repeatedly. The first 10 minutes of his speech that he managed to belt out were almost verbatim what is on youtube, and it was ridiculous and offensive [he was going on about how gay people are pedophiles].
    It is easy to see from the video clips and other information about him that Ryan Sorba does not provide a space for civil discussion, and trying to engage him in a debate, or a Q&A isn’t possible. His facts are skewed, his re-telling of “history” is beyond reprehensible and filled with anti-gay bias, and the things he says are meant for no other purpose than to emotionally hurt those he opposes. He supports making gayness ILLEGAL.
    How long do we have to sit around and listen to ignorant, hate-filled speech before we raise our voices against it? Does every single person with a half-brained opinion deserve a public forum in which to voice it? I would answer no to that. I am so sick and tired of being told that we have to be “ladies” and act “professional” and somehow rise above Ryan’s bullshit… but why? Can’t we interrogate the issues inherent with those very terms? There are significant race, class, and gendered expectations inherent in the idea of being “civilized” and “professional.” Be quiet. Be a lady. Don’t be unruly. Sit around politely as poorly-spoken, overgrown frat boys demean your existence. Stop being so hysterical!
    Or… not.
    Because what happened in that room last night was much larger than Ryan Sorba. Let’s face it- he’s a not very well known, poorly researched, hateful little man with no significant power to speak of. He is like a hundred thousand other ignorant people in this country who speak hatred from positions of privilege and have their opinions accommodated regardless. He is nobody, really. Driving him away was not necessarily a significant goal of any kind if you think about HIM and who he is. But for us, for young queer people coming together and raising our voices [literally] to make it quite clear to Sorba and others like him that hatred like his is NOT welcome on campuses like Smith is a HUGE DEAL. It was a show of solidarity and celebration of our strength and identity that Ryan Sorba wanted to undermine.
    Asking him questions as he stood at the podium would have given him the positioning of an expert. I refuse to give him that, regardless of how foolish it would make him. He looked just as foolish if not more so as he got red in the face and exclaimed “y’all are intense!” with an embarrassed expression when we spoke out louder and prouder than he ever imagined we would. He looked foolish when we snickered at his ridiculous speech, when he was interrupted by boos and shouting from the audience, and when the people outside [who were not let into the event] banged on the windows to make their voices heard since they could not be inside. Our laughter and joy at who we are and what we could accomplish for OURSELVES was more powerful than any “civilized” discussion we could have engaged him in- simply because he is not civil, and is incapable of having intelligent discussion.
    Although I can only speak for myself when I say this, I have full faith that the majority of the people involved in this protest last night would be in favor of having a REAL discussion about this issue. For many of us, the actual title of Sorba’s lecture [about gay-ness not being biological] is something that deserves attention and intelligent discussion. I, personally, will try to make a panel discussion happen sometime this coming year discussion the origins of sexuality and different approaches to understanding queer identity: biological determinism, political lesbianism, etc etc. There can certainly be productive forums for this conversation, and room for both “liberal” and “conservative” [and anything and everything between] viewpoints at them without validating hate-mongers like Sorba and their anti-intellectual rants.

  46. Posted April 30, 2008 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

    Saying that the students were wrong to drown the douche out gives credence to the argument that all points of view are valid therefore must be given equal “airtime.” WRONG. If someone came to Smith saying the Holocaust never happened, would it have been wrong for students to drown the speaker out? The fact is is that some people are just WRONG. Completely and utterly wrong. And while you certainly have every right to be completely and utterly wrong, you also run the risk of being drown out by people who are RIGHT. I’m tired of this false argument that all viewpoints are valid and deserving of recognition. It’s a moronic meme.

  47. Posted April 30, 2008 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

    There was absolutely no room for civilized debate because there was no Q&A session planned.
    Well, I don’t know, you could hold an informal session after the fact, or hand out literature, or organize your own event, or invite your own speaker, or set up a website, or write an op-ed or at least a letter to the editor, etc.
    You could also petition the school to require Q&A sessions at these sort of events.

  48. LlesbianLlama
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

    rocket-
    We are doing many of those things. However, the fact remains that Sorba WAS holding an event last night, and him being there did need to be addressed then and there. Doing one thing [protesting] does not preclude other actions such as the ones you listed.

  49. Faerylore
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

    Last I checked I am not required to be polite. Nor quiet, nor sweet, nor pretend to be straight, nor ‘turn the other cheek’. You give me the opportunity for a cool, intelligent, and *respectful* debate about sexuality and identity… and I will so be there.
    You come onto a college campus and spew your hatred-filled fanaticism all over my safe space (that queers have fought and fought and keep on having to fucking fight for), and I will certainly join the crowd shouting to let you know that you cannot shame or scare me.
    He can have his free speech, he just cannot expect me to be civil, quiet, or polite about it.
    And can I just say that I for one am really proud of everything I’ve heard about the queers at Smith (and all the rest of the 7 sisters)? You guys rock.

  50. Ayla
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

    I’m really icked out by the “ashamed” comments. You can disagree but being ashamed means these people did something shameful. I can’t speak for them but I would bet that they felt anything but ashamed for themselves.

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