Transphobic political commentator Michael Knowles delivered a hate-filled speech at the State University of New York at Buffalo Thursday evening despite ongoing protests leading up to the controversial event and even the school’s president condemning “dehumanizing rhetoric.”
The Young Americans for Freedom, a student organization devoted to conservative ideas, hosted Knowles on campus, where the political pundit was supposed to give a speech on “How Feminism Destroys Women (And Everything Else).” However, he rambled on for about 10 minutes about the so-called “confusion” of transgender people, his dissent on gay marriage, and ridiculed a slew of publications’ recent reports—including The Daily Beast—for slamming his transphobic views.
“Feminism has made everybody miserable, especially women,” he said with a smirk.
Knowles, 32, claimed that feminist teachings could make another woman miserably enlightened as she stirred “from the slumber of her oppressive serenity.”
He hailed Phyllis Schlafly as a “housewife” hero who denounced feminis but failed to mention that the conservative activist who fought to ensure the failure of the Equal Rights Amendment in 1972 was also a lobbyist, writer, and attorney.
Knowles also insinuated that feminist movements only took place at the time of women’s suffrage in the 1920s and with bra burnings of the 1960s. He neglected to acknowledge other moments of women’s independence and perseverance—in spite of sex—throughout human history.
“I think women understood the world a lot better before feminism,” he said. “I think women were obviously much happier before feminism. I think women understood the relationship between men and women and their own nature much better before feminism.”
The conservative commentator never really explained his definition of feminism until he was asked during the question portion of the event. (Only two of the eight students who asked questions following Knowles’ speech seemed to support him.) The thespian-turned-political pundit then talked in circles about whether or not women having the right to vote was a good or bad thing. He also denied that women became more intellectually enlightened after the Second Feminist Wave of the 1970s.
“I don’t think any of those women could hold a candle to Phyllis Schlafly in a debate,” he said. “The propaganda of that period in the 1970s was written by the Second-Wave feminists, but it does not reflect the truth.”
Protests before the event forced Knowles to take the stage more than 30 minutes after the event was supposed to begin, but his speaking engagement was further delayed by demonstrators in the audience.
“Trans lives matter!” protesters chanted louder and louder as Knowles stood at the podium.
“Do you have anything else to say?” Knowles mocked them and smiled. “‘Trans…lives…matter.’ OK, I think I got it. Does anyone have a pen so I can write that down?”
Within minutes, the protesters were escorted out of the auditorium.
Knowles blew up in the political sphere during the Conservative Political Action Conference last weekend when he said “transgenderism must be eradicated from public life entirely.”
“There can be no middle way in dealing with transgenderism,” The Daily Wire columnist said at the conference, but also repeated Thursday night. “It is all or nothing. If transgenderism is true—men really can become women, then it’s true for everybody for all ages. If transgenderism is false (as it is), if men really can’t become women (as they cannot), then it’s false for everybody too. And if it’s false, we should not indulge it.”
Journalists and activists blasted Knowles’ jargon, denouncing it as “openly calling for genocide against trans people.”
Local Buffalo activists went to task in efforts to reverse the hate they felt Knowles was going to spread to the community.
“[Showing Up for Justice] stands in solidarity with transgender students and employees at the @universityatbuffalo and other community groups who condemn the transphobic, racist, misogynist, and genocidal rhetoric of Michael Knowles,” the Buffalo chapter of Showing Up for Justice, a group for ending white supremacy, posted on its Facebook page.
“Knowles also promotes ‘great replacement theory,’ the racist ideology that motivated Peyton [sic] Gendron when he murdered ten Black Buffalonians last year,” the organization added, along with services for mental health.
Defense of Democracy, an organization fighting against oppression toward marginalized communities, released a series of videos in support of university students not in favor of the event.
Other organizations, like Our City Action Buffalo, hosted alternative events during the same time as Knowles’ planned speech at Slee Hall.
The outrage prompted the University at Buffalo to release messages in support of the LGTBQ+ community.
“Our university community thrives because of our diversity. We see the humanity and dignity in every member of our scholarly community. We are grateful for the many meaningful contributions of our feminist activists and scholars, and our LGBTQ+ students, faculty and staff. We are immeasurably enriched by your work, your perspectives and your voices,” university president Satish Tripathi released in a statement Tuesday.
“At the same time, as a public university, we must support the constitutionally protected democratic principles of the First Amendment…[to protect] speech no matter how noxious the content,” he added. “Of course, it is neither easy nor comfortable doing so when the speech in question offends and dehumanizes many members of our university community. Consequently, even as we recognize the powerful role that free speech plays in maintaining our democracy, it leaves us to grapple with language that the First Amendment’s robust protections permit.”
Representatives for Knowles did not immediately return The Daily Beast’s request for comment Friday.