Thank you to these academics for weighing in on a matter not intimately connected with their work or interests–in defense of the freedom of expression of the University of Calgary pro-life club. I think it helps when longstanding, respectable professors make a statement like this.
The university would never order an activist animal rights group that might display pictures of animals bleeding, suffering or dead to turn its pictures inward. Nor would the university censor or threaten antiwar activists for posting pictures of those burnt alive in Hiroshima or Dresden by Allied bombs. The more likely response would be that such images show the end results of past personal and political decisions. The university would likely argue such depictions might make some uncomfortable, but that’s the point of a university: to question, analyze and debate about one’s own assumptions and morality, as well as that of others.
It’s not that the display is graphic, it’s not that it is controversial–we see that on campus all the time.
It’s because it’s about abortion, and we have an unreasonable fear about grappling with this injustice as it occurs around us, day in, day out. It’s not a feel-good moment to realize we are as a country and as a society perpetuating an injustice RIGHT NOW and that’s what this display shows so many. Sometimes it is absolutely necessary to offend people. That’s the way I see it, anyhow.
Brigitte is struggling: I don’t like any of this. I don’t like GAP images. Yes, I forced myself to look at them (and many other horrifying things), and I challenge every pro-choicer to do the same. But I hate it when people shove those images in my face without some kind of warning. That doesn’t mean I’m against every single one of their public displays. I just want some warning, and a chance to look away – which is especially necessary in a public space where young children might suddenly be confronted with something for which they are not prepared, or for which their parents wish to prepare them differently – for instance, by not starting with bloody and extremely disturbing images. Not the case here: A university campus is not the same as just any city street. Still, I don’t like the displays.
That said, I also don’t like the double standard. If disturbing and bloody images are out, then there’s no room for PETA posters [warning: don’t click on this link if you’re eating lunch], to pick one easy example at random.
I don’t want anybody to shove bloody images into people’s faces without warning. But given that some people are allowed to do it for the cause they believe in, should it be OK to allow it for other people who do it for a cause that is, let’s just say, less popular with those who make the rules?
I honestly don’t know.
Andrea adds: You know, Brigitte, I hear you. I was motivated to act on this whole issue of abortion by a presentation by Stephanie Gray of the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform which was about an hour long and involved her talking at length about the history of social injustice, how certain reform movements were motivated by visuals as in the case of Emmett Till, who was murdered brutally and whose mother insisted on an open casket at his funeral. She simultaneously, as she spoke, showed the pictures, and that was the first time I saw a video of an abortion. So I maintain some concern that without the lengthy sit down discussion, the pictures are merely inflammatory and distancing, furthermore, that because we see so many terribly graphic images these days, that a new set will have little to no impact. Who doesn’t see blood and gore every night on your average crime show? We don’t live in Emmett Till’s age anymore.
BUT–These photos jar people into noticing that every day we kill people, and that’s what they are, and we call it something else, be it reproductive rights or choice or what have you. We actually view abortion as compassionate, quite far away from viewing it as a social injustice. Abortion is something that breaks women and communities down, is both the result of distress and causes more… We are so far away from viewing abortion this way, that I’m pretty much in favour of every pro-life effort.
For people with kids–who are faced with these photos–the only thing I can think of is to use it as a teachable moment, which you are going to encounter at just about every corner these days (think of American Apparel, HandM ads, think TV any night of the week).
I resent the Abortion Distortion–graphic ads re. animal abuse are AOK. If we extended even half the concern this society feels about animals (and I’m not saying that is wrong, at all) to people, well…
Stephanie Gray certainly does get a lot of “converts” should you want to call them that, and I count myself among them. Give that woman an auditorium every night of the week, I say. If people would put down their fair-trade lattés and come, is the question.