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.