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Monday, March 26, 2012

Support for Justine Davidson - letter to UBC

Addendum to blog post below. I have recieved a response from UBC to my letter. I'm not particularly happy with it.

Here is a slightly abridged version of my letter to UBC in support of Jusine Davidson. Again, I offer it to you to use as a basis for your own. What I have edited out is personal information that could not apply to any other writers. Send letters to stephen.toope@ubc.ca and chad.hyson@ubc.ca

Dear President Toope and the UBC Board of Governors,

I am writing in support of Justine Davidson and her creative and peaceful protest of the anti-choice GAP “display” at UBC on March 8, 2012. Ms. Davidson’s  negative reaction to the images presented by this group is understandable and shared by many people including many UBC students who protested the event.

I am dismayed by many aspects of the events of this day. Firstly, I am dismayed that UBC continues to allow the GAP to present their twisted and offensive misinformation. I understand the arguments for free speech, and I understand that the GAP is well funded and happily sues anyone who gets in their way. But I feel strongly that what they present is hate speech. By calling those who have abortions perpetrators of genocide, the GAP display incites hatred towards women exercising their legal and medical right to abortion in Canada and hatred against the providers of abortion services. No one calls another a perpetrator of genocide without implicitly demanding action against them. Meanwhile, the GAP protesters exploit the victims of true genocides. Their images are often described as pornographic and their tactics are widely understood as offensive. They have even been denounced by religious leaders such as Bishop Henry of Calgary.

Secondly, assuming you allow this charade of an event to go on because you believe in free speech, one can assume you would protect Ms. Davidson’s right to free speech as well. Ms. Davidson reports that she did not interfere in any way with the “display,” stayed outside the area set aside for them and merely sat down naked. She did not even block the view of their images. Further, I understand that the GAP protesters did not complain to the University. One must assume then that you acted on your own to punish Ms. Davidson for her demonstration of free speech.

I hope that you do not intend to suggest that the use of her naked body as a tool to respond to the misogynist display she was witnessing is somehow inappropriate. I consider her act one of extreme courage. Like a soldier, she put her body on the line to defend her rights. Apparently, this is what it is going to take for women to assert their rights in Canada now, and it is a sad day when University administrators decide that their role is to support those who want to infringe on the rights of women.

Thirdly, I wonder if this group were to bring their arguments to a class at UBC, would it receive a passing grade? At the very least, the GAP protesters misunderstand the definition of genocide and the status of the fetus in law. As a University, I would expect you to challenge the GAP display on the basis of fact, philosophy, ethics and medicine. Instead, having allowed it, you abandon your responsibility to put it into any kind of socio political context and leave that work to your students. Even if this is a free speech issue, truth is not relative. Some positions have more validity than others. Medical doctors at UBC should challenge the validity of the so-called fetal images, ethicists and philosophers should challenge the logic of their arguments and sociologists and lawyers should put their ridiculous claims into a legal and cultural perspective. To allow this group to go unchallenged is unacceptable in a setting that is supposed to be about higher learning.

Ms. Davidson did not allow these highly questionable views to go unchallenged and she should be commended. Her own writing on the topic is a cogent feminist analysis that would receive a high grade in any Women’s Studies class that I was teaching. Ms. Davidson’s capacity to express her dissent at this horrible display, her ability to apply theory to her action and action to her theory, is something to be celebrated.

As a woman in Canada, I look for allies in attempts to secure my human rights. I fear right now that I cannot count on UBC for this.  I look forward to hearing back from your office on this issue and hope that any measures against Ms. Davidson have been dropped and that the University will apologize to her and examine its own role and responsibility in permitting these GAP protests in the future.

Sincerely, your name here.

The Abortion Monologues is now available as an e-book on Smashwords. Check it out.

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