Cancel culture

Those who say what they think are burned at the stake

“The university has become way too woke!” concluded a good friend of mine. “Not so loud, idiot, do you want to end up being burned at the stake?” I hissed back at her. Fearfully, I looked around to see whether anyone was already writing a tweet saying that two white heterosexual women at Utrecht University are transphobic and racist, and should be cancelled immediately.

Recently, my friend had a chat with a guy from our study association who is afraid to admit who he voted for. “You voted for a right-wing candidate, didn’t you?” Duh. When people ask who you’ve voted for, they often give you an out, saying: “You don’t have to say it if you don’t want to!” Sure, if a left-wing extremist happens to overhear that you’ve voted for a right-wing party, I’d also keep my mouth shut, thanks for your advice and understanding.

I’ve talked about this a lot with my friends. People would rather not hear right-wing opinions at the university. We’re living in some kind of fear culture, in which many are afraid of being cancelled. But things shouldn't 'be this way. Everyone has a right to their opinion and they should be able to voice it without being condemned for it. And I don't just mean with regard to politics. Take the oft-discussed topic of gender diversity, for example. Recently, Fleur Koolhof, a UU student, published an op-ed on the Dutch version of DUB, titled Should I be a lesbian to fit in? She addressed the topic in an extremely careful way, with multiple disclaimers added so as to not anger anyone.

She called for a more open conversation, in which people wouldn’t be afraid to say the wrong thing. But the first comment labeled her an egocentric sad sack, and advised her to learn more about the topic before voicing her opinion. Another column (published only in Dutch, Ed.), written by teacher Ruud Schotting, is titled That toga has the LGBTQIA+ colours on its sleeve. He, too, asks the reader not to immediately torture him with death threats for voicing his discomfort with gender-neutral bathrooms. That sentence made me laugh, but is it actually funny?

Mister Schotting didn’t receive any nasty replies to his column, possibly because he ended it with a beautiful conclusion. But what if I said that I, too, don’t feel comfortable in a gender-neutral bathroom, and neither do my friends? Is it really so weird if I startle when I run into a man in the ladies room in the Buys Ballot building? How does that instantly make me a dirty transphobe? (Anticipating the replies, here!)

To be honest, and I’m speaking for many who are afraid to do so, I am highly uncomfortable with the idea of having to share bathrooms with men. Unsafe, even. Imagine gender-neutral bathrooms become the standard in nightlife. A big, muscled man with evil intentions follows me into the bathroom… If we continue with this ideology, I wonder when gender-neutral showers will be introduced at Olympos. As a heterosexual woman, no one will ask me my opinion on this.