Hate is okay, but breasts aren’t?Posted: March 23, 2012
Below is the text of a letter that I just sent to a former colleague at UBC in regards to his part in taking disciplinary action against a UBC student who took her clothes off to protest the presence of a misogynist and racist hate group called the Genocide Awareness Project that was holding a large public display on campus. Their display of anti-abortion messages equating abortion to historical genocide, complete with two-metre high photos of holocaust victims, lynchings, and victims of Pol Pot’s massacres next to what are supposedly photos of aborted fetuses.
I urge everyone to call or write to UBC and let them know what you think about their protecting racist, misogynist hate groups instead of protecting students from being targeted by that hate.
Read about the original action here.
I wonder if you remember me, we worked together a few years ago through the Sustainability Ambassadors program. Your name pops up in my contacts sometimes when I write to other folks whose names start with C., and I often wonder how you’re doing. I see you’re still at UBC, which I hope means that you’re doing well there and enjoying your work.
I have to say, though, that when I saw your name connected to this article about an incident on campus last month, I was deeply shocked at the behaviour that’s reported from you. Surely you must understand that the GAP display has nothing to do with free speech and everything to do with targeting women with messages of hate, while simultaneously co-opting the stories of people of colour, Jews, First Nations, and all victims of hate-motivated mass genocide to support that misogynist targeting. To equate support for a woman’s right to decide what happens to her own body with the organized attempt to exterminate an entire group of people is not only deeply insulting to both women and the people whose stories are being stolen, but is also highly traumatic to those very people, by the use of images of historical genocide placed beside what are reported to be images of aborted fetuses; these images, as well as their juxtaposition, constitutes a real threat to feeling safe on campus for people of colour, for women, and for many, many others.
I know this, because when I was coordinator of the Feminist Collective and Women’s Centre in the SUB, I ended up acting as an impromtu lay counsellor for many women, especially women of colour and women of African and Carribbean descent, who were so traumatized by this display and its content that they came crying into the centre. Many others simply stayed home from classes that day to avoid having to see the images and experience the hateful messages that the GAP people amplify through their PA system. Think about that: an action that causes members of specific, systemically oppressed groups to stay away from UBC because they feel so targeted by that action. How is that not hate? How is that in any way defensible by any institution that claims to promote a climate where all people can come and learn from each other, where all people are welcome?
The GAP display is misogynist and racist. The actions of one brave student to do whatever she felt able to do in that situation to oppose it in a way that allowed her to feel empowered should be applauded, not punished. It is not the place of those who are not directly impacted by an act of hate to tell those who are directly impacted by it how they should respond to it, or whether or not their response is appropriate. When women and people of colour are staying home from school because they feel so targeted with hate by the GAP display, it is not one woman’s naked body that UBC should be worrying about.
Why this hateful group is even allowed on campus in the first place is a different topic for a different letter. In this letter, I urge you in the strongest sense to withdraw all disciplinary action against Justine Davidson and, in future, perhaps the administration at UBC would consider taking action to minimize the harmful effects that the GAP display has on students before a woman has to take her clothes off to make a point about it.