Controversy has swirled around the upcoming Pro-Life Club event titled “Lies Feminists Tell With Kristan Hawkins,” a sold-out talk featuring the president of Students for Life of America. The marketing posters for the event have been ripped down from Office of Student Involvement (OSI) approved locations every day this past week within hours of the fliers being posted. A “protest” has been organized on Facebook by students on campus who plan to attend the event and ask Hawkins questions.
The posters ripped down display the three lies Hawkins claims feminists tell about abortion: “Women need abortion to succeed,” “Women need planned parenthood for healthcare,” and “You can’t be a student and a parent.” The Pro-Life club has reported the issue to OSI, which is lodging a complaint with the Boston College Police Department. The issue has been persistent in relation to prior Pro-Life Club events, which have also had one or two posters ripped down, but this time the issue is much more rampant. Almost every flier that is posted is ripped down within hours without fail in this case.
The protest is not a University-approved protest, nor is it really a protest in the technical sense at all. Attendees who registered their interest in the protest have been encouraged by organizers to voice their opinions at the event, but to be respectful of Hawkins’ right to speak and listen to what she has to say as well.
Hollie Watts, MCAS ’21, who initiated planning for the “protest” and has spearheaded pushing information out to interested students on the Facebook event page, said that since this isn’t a registered protest, it’s vital that attendees understand that they can be disciplined for disrupting the event. On the other hand, she explained, that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t voice their opinions and emotions during the question-and-answer session of the event.
Bianca Passero, president of the Pro-Life Club and Lynch ’19, said she was very happy to have a multitude of perspectives at the event, and that increased discourse was the end goal of having the event all along. She admitted that the title of the event is attention grabbing, and intentionally so. In the past, the Pro-Life Club has struggled to get attendance at its events, so when Hawkins and her “Lies Feminists Tell” speaker series was offered as a potential event, Passero and her compatriots were happy to bring Hawkins onto campus.
Watts contended that some in the student population have found the title hurtful and an attack on feminists and humans.
“This is attacking any guy or any person of any or no gender who claim to be a feminist,” Watts said. “This is attacking people’s basic access to social justice. Feminists just want equality and equity of opportunity. There should be no oppression of anyone.”
Passero said that the talk is intended to examine more closely what it means to be a feminist, noting that she identifies as an anti-abortion feminist, not attack feminists or feminism. The talk’s concentration on what Passero called “mainstream feminist claims” is what the three lies Hawkins advertises have to do with, not the idea of feminism.
“I think third-wave feminism [has promoted the idea] that if you’re a feminist that means you’re pro-choice,” Passero said. “I’m hoping that is brought up, that you can be a feminist and be pro-life and how being pro-life does not mean anti-woman at all.”
Watts also noted that feminism isn’t above criticism, citing a lack of concentration on issues affecting minority women, but she thinks that this, which is a broad attack in her opinion, sidetracks any conversation about internally improving feminism.
Both Watts and Passero discussed the differences the two sides have on Planned Parenthood. Watts noted that students should be ready to fact check claims Hawkins makes about Planned Parenthood, while Passero said that Planned Parenthood is a repetitive program that is already covered by other federally funded organizations.
Watts commented that one of the issues attendees will have to grapple with is the outside narrative of what Hawkins stands for beyond issues of feminism and concentrating on presenting their arguments counter to Hawkins’ beliefs about mainstream feminism. In addition, Watts noted her concern about tensions rising if they feel disrespected by Hawkins or other members of the crowd.
Watts’ intention in starting the Facebook event was to bring attention to the fact that an anti-abortion activist was coming to campus on a premise questioning feminism. The page has now garnered 171 people who say they are going and 344 people who have said they are interested.
The event caught the attention of the Dean of Students Tom Mogan and his office. Mogan called Watts into his office to discuss whether Watts and other organizers believed the “protest” should be a University approved one. When Watts indicated it would not be categorized that way, Mogan explained how students could be disciplined for disrupting the event. Mogan also decided to convert the event from a free admission one to a ticketed one, effectively implementing crowd control and preventing people outside of BC from attending the event.
But Watts downplayed her own role, noting that it’s just her job to “set the table” for other students to voice their disagreements with an anti-abortion speaker.
The “protest” also caught the attention of Hawkins, who sent out an email obtained by The Heights to potential donors asking for money to pay for private security for her protection. Passero said that the Pro-Life Club was not informed that the email was going out, and that nobody in Hawkins’ camp communicated to the club that such an email was going out.
BCPD Chief Bill Evans told The Heights that BCPD will monitor the event, but he has no concerns about security surrounding the event, based on how Hawkins’ prior speaking engagements have played out and the fact that the event is ticketed, restricting attendance to BC students. He urged participants to respect each other’s views.
Correction (3/19/19, 8:40 a.m.): This article previously referred to organizers of the Facebook event encouraging students with viewpoints differing from Hawkins’ as “abortion rights activists,” which was inaccurate.
Featured Image by Jonathan Ye / Heights Editor