I like to think of myself as an open-minded person. I find other’s perspectives on social concepts and issues very interesting. I enjoy listening to their thoughts and reasoning to their arguments. So naturally, going to Speakers’ Corner in London was something I was very excited for. For those who are unaware, Speakers’ Corner is a famous location in London for free speech. According to the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation), Speaker’s Corner has been known as a famous place for free speech since about 1872. Notable figures such as Karl Marx and George Orwell have made appearances. Every Sunday in Hyde Park groups and individuals bring a soapbox (literally) to stand on to speak their minds. It is basically like watching democracy happen right before your eyes.

old bbc

This is how packed the Speaker’s Corner used to be.

stool(1)

I was not too sure on what to expect, but being told I was going to a place where people get into heated debates sounded wonderful. The first speaker that I wandered my way to was a Muslim man in about his early sixties. He told everyone in the crowd that if they were not Muslim they were “sick”. Islam is the only right religion in the world and everything he speaks is right because he is Muslim. One member of the audience challenged him with his beliefs and he replied by asking what her religion was. Her response was “I am a human being”. He was dumbfounded as the crowd cheered for her and would not continue to answer any questions. After listening to the Islamic Extremist for a few minutes, I realized that all of the speakers might not have an objective to their speeches; they just like to share their thoughts.

muslim

Since I got bored with the man’s speech that did not seem to have a point or a valid argument, I walked on over to other speakers. These speakers were strong antifeminists. They had some serious hostility towards women’s rights and believed that the disadvantages suffered by women are exaggerated. From the Anti-feminist Brothers, I learned that feminism encourages harming men in society. Their hypothetical experiment was called “Workshops on Vagina Poetry”. The experiment would start by putting all feminists in their own community with no debt, endless supply food, and all the men needed to clean the toilets. The women would have daily tears of joy with empowerment workshops everyday to help their economy. The feminist in this community would build a protection wall from all the men working as a sexist objectification barrier. All of the females’ periods would match up, resulting in them clawing each other’s eyes out and the world burning to the ground. A bell would ring. The experiment would be over. The conclusion: women suck and feminism needs to end.

lady haters

Being a relatively liberal social work student, I disagreed with them. I had to giggle a little when all of the women in the crowd walked away leaving only a few men clapping at the end. Even though I did not agree with the Anti-feminist Brothers it was very interesting to listen to people from all over the world talk about their views on different social issues, no matter how nuts they were.

Speaker’s Corner started to get even more exciting when the camera crews started weaving through the crowds. A camera man from BBC was recording a very young man that started speaking so I obliviously had to check it out. The young man appeared to be with the two lady haters, but in the beginning of his speech he made it clear that he had no affiliation with the uneducated morons. This young man gave a speech on gender equality and how some issues men face relating to hegemonic masculinity is often overlooked. He had research, statistics, and instead of just preaching, he made plans of what could be done with his presented social issue. Unlike the other speakers, he enjoyed being challenged and supported his arguments well. After he was done with his speech I got in line to ask him a few questions. While people were asking questions, the BBC was recording the conversations. I later learned that the BBC asked that young man to come speak to show that Speaker’s Corner is a great place for freedom of speech.

Unfortunately, I learned that Speaker’s Corner has been dwindling down throughout the years. Less people are coming, the topics do not travel far from religion, and the park has set different laws against the area. The goal of the BBC was to bring it back and show that Speaker’s Corner still is a great place in London.

When people get together to share thoughts and challenge one another on arguments, it could change the world. There needs to be a lot more places like Speaker’s Corner.

I can promise you that I will be there next week!

–Haley Aldinger

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