• Sun. Jul 14th, 2024

Protests lead to second cancellation of ‘Adult Human Female’ screening

The second attempted screening of ‘Adult Human Female’ by Edinburgh Academics for Academic Freedom (EAFAF) was set to take place at 6pm on 26 April, but was cancelled after protesters occupied the Gordon Aikman Lecture Theatre, barring anyone from entering.

EAFAF originally attempted to screen the film in December but cancelled the event as protesters blocked people from attending. 

Demonstrators from Cabaret Against the Hate Speech, Student Pride Network, Girl Up Edinburgh, and the UCU were out in force, with as many as five-hundred people in attendance, and several groups releasing statements damning the film and the university for allowing it to be screened on campus.

Cabaret Against Hate Speech stated on Instagram that “EAFAF are violating the dignity and respect of trans staff and students and allowing blatant transphobia onto our campus” whilst Gender Liberation’s Open letter to the University called the decision to screen the film “hostile”.

Many of the attendees, including members of the Scottish Family Party, voiced frustration at the cancellation of the event, as well as directing some frustration at demonstrators.

One woman, on attempting to force her way into the theatre, exclaimed: “I have an inalienable right to attend this legitimate film … I have human rights and those rights have been denied!”.

Another attendee spoke to The Student, claiming that “saying people have no right to hear alternative perspectives – similar to 1930’s Germany – [they clarified that they were] not comparing to Nazi Germany – see what happens [when you] stop debate and free speech”.

Dr Shereen Benjamin, who features in the film, told The Student: “The film looks at the effects of gender-identity theory on women’s rights: it considers some of the implications when rights based on sex are replaced with those based on self-declared gender identity.

“It seeks to explore and begin to address conflicts of rights in situations such as women’s prisons, healthcare and sports.

“The film is not about trans rights, which are rightly enshrined in law via the protected characteristic of gender reassignment in the Equality Act.”

Robyn Woof, the Trans and Non-Binary Liberation Officer, who has been banned from protests on campus for her involvement in protests against the original screening of the film, stated in a letter that “as a 6ft tall trans woman, I am an easy target for the bigots putting on this screening.  I fit the stereotype of the big scary trans woman”.

“This is clearly a breach of my human rights and I intend to protest.  Peter Mathieson must resign”, she continued.

Many of the groups present felt the University was to blame for allowing the screening, Girl Up stated that “Freedom of speech does not pertain to hate speech and that is what the EAFAF is promoting and in platforming them, the University is condoning [it]”.

Both sides of the debate claimed that their human rights were being violated, with attendees of the film calling it the “shutting down of free speech at The University of Edinburgh for the second time”.

Lauren Byrne, the Edinburgh University Students Association (EUSA) VP Welfare, highlighted that it is “very much a student right to demonstrate and protest” and that “Academic Freedom is not the same as hate speech”.

A speaker for Cabaret Against Hate Speech told The Student: “I think the event was a great success, we’ve demonstrated that activism can be done in many different ways and that it shuts down hate speech … We will live out our lives no matter what … people will leave hopeful, inspired, and with a sense of pride once again”.

Update, 12:30pm, 2 May 2022: This article has been amended to correct an inaccurate quote from Dr Shareen Benjamin presented in the original version of this article. The Student apologises for the error.

Image via Lucy Frewin