Editor's note: Tickets for this event have run out. The Gavel will be livestreaming the event on our Facebook page.
On Tuesday, March 19 the Boston College Students for Life and the Students for Life of America are hosting a pro-life speaker, Kristan Hawkins, to give a ticketed talk on campus.
Hawkins has led the Students for Life of America since 2006 and worked on Donald Trump’s Pro-Life Advisory Council during his presidential candidacy. Her talk is titled “Lies Feminists Tell”—a sharp choice of words—and will address the supposed “lies of mainstream feminism regarding abortion,” per the event’s description.
In order to attend, students must pick up a free ticket from the Robsham Theatre ticket office starting Friday.
A Q&A session with Kristan Hawkins will follow the talk. People with dissenting opinions are explicitly invited: “regardless of your stance on abortion, please come, listen respectfully to Kristan, and voice your questions in the Q&A!”
As the event organizers seem to have anticipated, many BC students and community members disagree with Hawkins, so it is not shocking that there is an organized response to this event: a speaker protest.
The speaker protest invites people to “join the feminists of BC in resisting lies” by attending Hawkins’s talk wearing pink (or other feminist apparel), listening respectfully, then voicing questions during the Q&A. The protest was organized by Hollie Watts, MCAS ’21, in conjunction with a number of student groups on campus who felt that Hawkins’s pro-life message, and especially the absurd and insulting framing of her event as a response to feminist “lies,” cannot be allowed to happen without remark.
Watts, who organized the protest, says that Hawkins’ framing is “a complete distortion of feminism.” Hawkins claims she is responding to lies which feminists supposedly tell, such as “women need abortion to succeed,” but Watts counters that Hawkins is putting words in feminists’ mouths. The primary focus of feminism is the freedom for women to choose their paths, and it certainly never implies that abortion is necessary.
This is part of what’s at stake in this protest; it is not only about the issue of pro-life vs. pro-choice. This protest is also about defending the claims of feminists from deliberate mischaracterization with the goal of defending pro-life ideas, which are inherently not feminist.
Watts says that she “[doesn’t] think it’ll be productive to make signs and yell at [Hawkins]." Instead, the protestors should do exactly what Hawkins has asked. They should listen respectfully, not boo her while she’s speaking, and make sure to bring the best questions they can think of to challenge Hawkins’ ideas.
“Dialogue is more productive than yelling,” Watts says, and while “[dialogue] could get heated,” the goal is not an explosive argument, which would cause nothing but trouble and tension. The goal of this protest is to create “a space for people to express their opinions”—particularly their dissenting opinions—with the support of a whole crowd of people wearing pink.
For the first few days of the speaker protest being planned, Kristen Hawkins’s talk was open and free to all: no tickets, no BC IDs, just open doors for engagement and discussion. However, after Hollie Watts met with the Dean of Students, Tom Mogan, to obtain approval for the protest (per school policy), the event was quickly changed to a ticketed event, in order to “ensure that the room does not overflow.”
Or in other words, to ensure that the room does not overflow with irritating protesters so they cannot make their voices heard. One email suggested that tickets would be made available first to members of pro-life organizations on campus, then to the broader public. Tickets will be collected at the door by BCPD officers—a clear message that Dean Mogan and event organizers were expecting aggressive and disruptive protesters, despite this being explicitly the opposite of the protest’s stated goal.
The ideal outcome for the protest would have been to bring more protestors than actual event attendees. That would have demonstrated very effectively that the student body defends the right of women to bodily autonomy and opposes Hawkins’s distortions of feminism. However, that will no longer be possible. While it was encouraging to see over a hundred people mark that they are “Going” on the protest’s Facebook event, there are now only 150 tickets available, not accounting for the number of tickets claimed by pro-life students.
While the number of protestors will be much lower than it could have been, their passion need not be. Tickets can be picked up in the Robsham Theatre Box Office starting today 10-8 p.m., Saturday 6-8 p.m., and Sunday 12:30-2:30 p.m. If there are still tickets available on Tuesday, the box office will open to distribute them.
The event is on Tuesday, March 19 at 7:30 p.m. in Higgins Hall Room 300. Get tickets today with your friends and colleagues, come wearing your pink or feminist apparel, and be prepared to ask probing, pointed questions.