But a few reactions stood out, among them that of Brendan O’Neill, the Telegraph blogs section’s resident contrarian. He wrote that feminist campaigners pointing this out was a “hilarious echo of the 19th-century notion that women need protecting from vulgar and foul speech”. We were, he said, “a tiny number of peculiarly sensitive female bloggers” trying to close down freedom of speech.
The best response to that argument, incidentally, comes from Ally Fogg, who wrote recently:
What you fail to understand is that the use of hate speech, threats and bullying to terrify and intimidate people into silence or away from certain topics is a far bigger threat to free speech than any legal sanction.
Imagine this is not the internet but a public square. One woman stands on a soapbox and expresses an idea. She is instantly surrounded by an army of 5,000 angry people yelling the worst kind of abuse at her in an attempt to shut her up. Yes, there’s a free speech issue there. But not the one you think.