The Women’s March Holds a One-Way ‘Discussion’
When its leaders came to my campus, photos and recording were barred, and questions were screened.
By Kassy Dillon
I’m a student at Mount Holyoke College, a women’s liberal-arts school, which last weekend hosted the 2018 Women of Color Trailblazers Leadership Conference. Keynote speakers included National Women’s March founders Tamika Mallory, Carmen Perez and Linda Sarsour.
As president of the Mount Holyoke College Republicans, I was looking forward to this event, billed as a “discussion.” I was excited to engage the ideas presented by these far-left figures and cover the event on my online publication, Lone Conservative.
But outside the conference venue, I was greeted by signs prohibiting photography and recording. Audience members weren’t permitted to ask questions directly to the speakers. Instead, we had to write them on note cards, and only preapproved questions would be answered during the 15 minutes dedicated to Q&A. Some discussion.
As I walked in, I could feel my peers glaring at me—a familiar enough experience for an outspoken Republican on a campus full of leftist women. But I was surprised that only about 75 people showed up, in a room that can hold up to a thousand.
I wrote a question on my note card. It wasn’t asked. But Ms. Mallory did notice my live tweeting of the event. “There is someone here at this school who is on Twitter lying saying this room is empty and that all of you are not here,” she said, knowing I was forbidden to take photos to prove my claim.
As for Ms. Sarsour, she said: “In 30 years from now you’ll be asking, ‘Where were you during this fascist administration?’ ” I silently answered: Sitting in a room, listening to you exercise your free speech without restriction.
I did not care for the choice of speakers. Ms. Sarsour once told Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a survivor of female genital mutilation, that she doesn’t “deserve” to be a woman. In March Ms. Mallory wrote of the Nation of Islam that she has “always held them close to my heart”—this after its leader, Louis Farrakhan, doubled down on his longstanding anti-Semitic views in a rant about “Satanic Jews.”
Nevertheless, I welcomed the event because I believe in free speech. Instead of calling for these divisive speakers to be disinvited, as leftist students often do, my campus group planned a Conservative Women Summit, held this Wednesday, which featured five speakers offering different perspectives.
I have worked to promote free speech throughout my four years in college. I believe in civility and real discussion, so I would never disrupt an event. Instead, I prefer to ask tough questions. This event only allowed scripted ones, because the Women’s March founders knew they couldn’t defend their ugly and radical ideas.
Ms. Dillon is a senior at Mount Holyoke College studying international relations and Middle Eastern studies. She is the MHC College Republican president and founder of LoneConservative.com.