Any views expressed within media held on this service are those of the contributors, should not be taken as approved or endorsed by the University, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the University in respect of any particular issue.

Third Time’s a Charm?

By the EAFAF Steering Group

We were delighted that our screening and discussion of Adult Human Female – a film about women’s rights – finally went ahead last night (22 Nov.). It was, however, disappointing that yet again, members of the University community tried to prevent it, and that a major security operation involving dozens of security and police officers was necessary.

Of course we understand that some people disagree with the views put forward in the film, and we are relaxed about people making their views felt through peaceful protest. We have never sought to prevent events going ahead which promote a different perspective: we understand that last night, some members of the University organised an alternative ‘trans solidarity’ event locally, and we hope that went well. We signalled in the publicity for our event that people who are broadly in agreement with the arguments made in the film, those who oppose the arguments, and those who are agnostic or simply want to find out more, were equally welcome to attend and participate in discussion.

This is because we believe that it is important for a diversity of viewpoints to be presented and discussed. This is fundamental to the purpose of a university – the pursuit of knowledge through calm and careful debate.

So we think that while it is fine for people to disagree it is not OK for them to try to prevent other people from attending. To see a trade union centrally involved in these attempts to close down academic freedom is particularly disappointing. We also deplore the attempts by protestors to intimidate our guests. Attendees told us it was frightening to have to walk past “men in masks holding a ‘Fuck TERFs’ banner and shouting abuse”. This is not peaceful protest: it is harassment.

The misrepresentation of the views presented in the film by those trying to close it down are contributing to a toxic climate on campus for those with what might broadly be described as ‘gender critical’ views’. In addition, they risk stirring up anxiety amongst trans colleagues and students by incorrectly suggesting to them that the film seeks to deny trans people the same rights as everyone else.

By allowing EAFAF to attempt to show the film for a third time university management are clearly demonstrating that they do not believe the film to be harmful to any members of the community, and that it does not breach the dignity and respect policy.

We are extremely grateful for Edinburgh University security colleagues for their calm and professional approach last night and at previous attempted screenings. We are also aware that last night’s event a very expensive event to run, and that the cost, potentially prohibitive of academic freedom, was generated by the protestors, not by us.

While we welcome the university’s support, we are of the view that had management responded more robustly to those involved in previous attempts to prevent the screening then we would not be seeing the same lies, slurs and harassment as we have over recent days.


5 replies to “Third Time’s a Charm?”

  1. Abigail Maxwell says:

    This is not a film about women’s rights. It is a film with easily refutable falsehoods about trans issues. It has a range of speakers, angry or scared, derisive or contemptuous, designed to trigger people. It is a deeply silly film. According to the film, trans children as a phenomenon dates from 2013, and puberty blockers for trans children are “the greatest medical scandal since thalidomide”. In real life, puberty blockers for trans children have been given since the 1990s, so the oldest beneficiaries of the treatment are around 40, and quite well able to advocate for themselves.

    Academic freedom only has value when the speaker is committed to truth as they best see it, and seeks out contrary views. The film is propaganda. For a more detailed refutation of its more outlandish claims, see

    1. jhearn says:

      This easily is a film about woman’s rights, among other things. You say it is full of ‘refutable falsehoods’ but you don’t do the work of engaging with any of its arguments. Is there anger expressed? Yes, and the film provides evidence of the vile online abuse that the speakers have been subjected to, which along with attempts to silence them, warrant anger. There will always be points that can be disputed. I would advise anyone interested in the downsides of puberty blockers to read Hannah Barnes’s book Time to Think (Swift Press, 2023) for a sober assessment. Obviously the film-makers are committed to ‘the truth as best they see it’, and the film is a response to widely circulated ‘contrary views’. The film-makers have a right to be contrary themselves. All sides don’t need to be represented in every case made. The wider discussion is achieved when people engage across the spectrum of opinion, which can only happen if all sides are allowed to express their views.

      As for blog reviews, there are plenty of balanced ones that see the film as broadly reasonable in its approach, for instance:

  2. Abigail Maxwell says:

    You claim I don’t engage with the film’s arguments. Mine is a short comment. But- “you cannot change sex”. That is simply reiterated, with an air of surprise that anyone would dispute it. The idea that trans women are women is called a spell. It is not an academic argument, but an assertion. Well, arguably. Lili Elbe died of organ rejection after a uterus transplant. The neovagina is a hole without a cervix. The DNA does not change. But, trans is a recognisable phenomenon, and we have a way of defining it- people who want to be, want to be treated as, or think we are, of the other sex. It is a discrete group- those within the group, sometimes after a period of doubt, are definite about it, and others often find the idea revolting. You cannot change sex, perhaps, but treating this discrete group as if they were what they want to be makes them much happier. But the film does not engage with that at all, just make a bewildered assertion.

    1. sbenjami says:

      Thanks, Abigail. I’m struck by this in your second comment:

      “But, trans is a recognisable phenomenon, and we have a way of defining it- people who want to be, want to be treated as, or think we are, of the other sex.”

      If there was consensus over that definition, I think we’d have a really good starting point for exploring the tensions and contradictions. Unfortunately, the assertion “Trans women are women”, backed up by accusations of hatred and bigotry against anyone who says we need to hold onto the idea that sex still matters and is sometimes relevant and especially so for women, has made calm, careful discussion about conflicts of rights almost impossible. Some of our UCUE colleagues, for instance, have insisted that because trans women are (in their view) a subset of ‘women’, there can be no basis on which to discuss conflicts of rights. This has been very unhelpful.

      The contributors to the film are saying a definite no, we can’t allow self-declared gender identity (a subjective feeling) to overwrite biological sex everywhere and for all purposes. The film explores some of the places in which sex matters (prisons, rape crisis centres, sports etc.) – and sets out to discuss some of the problems when laws and policies, and the language used to frame them, are changed on the basis of self-declared gender identity replacing sex, before the implications for everyone have been explored, let alone addressed.

      I agree with you that there needs to be a full discussion of how to provide accommodations for “people who want to be, want to be treated as, or think [they] are, of the other sex” so that they can live their lives fully, and free from discrimination and harassment, whilst still recognising women’s needs for single-sex provisions for the purposes of safety, dignity, fair competition and robust data collection. That discussion needs to be precise and specific in order to address the different conflicts of rights: e.g. we’re seeing it happening in growing numbers of sporting bodies in recent months. This film wasn’t so much setting out to do that, as to focus on the implications of what’s happened to date, i.e. changes to law, policy and the underpinning framing which have run ahead of the necessary careful discussions. Hopefully, once the era of ‘no-debate’ has been fully ended, we can have that wider conversation.

  3. jhearn says:

    At the request of the University, a comment hostile to EAFAF previously posted here has been removed because “these comments are a clear breach of University IT policy and it is not appropriate for the University to continue to host these comments, which are directed towards staff, on its website.”

Leave a reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>


Report this page

To report inappropriate content on this page, please use the form below. Upon receiving your report, we will be in touch as per the Take Down Policy of the service.

Please note that personal data collected through this form is used and stored for the purposes of processing this report and communication with you.

If you are unable to report a concern about content via this form please contact the Service Owner.

Please enter an email address you wish to be contacted on. Please describe the unacceptable content in sufficient detail to allow us to locate it, and why you consider it to be unacceptable.
By submitting this report, you accept that it is accurate and that fraudulent or nuisance complaints may result in action by the University.