Good thing the paper won’t HUSH them up
by Reyna Wang
Ear Wax Editor
the film, I’ll recount this story how I saw it, and let’s be real--there is no way of presenting information.A day after the Fordham screening of the new documentary HUSH, which claims to be a “liberating conversation about abortion and women’s health,” this headline surfaces on studentsforlife.org: “Another Catholic University Fails its Pro-Life Students.” Unsurprisingly enough, it contains an email from the speaker at the screening, Eve Silver, that spews more than a few lies about what really happened at the documentary screening. As a participant in the peaceful demonstration organized by FSU, SAGES, and Women’s Empowerment as well as an attentive viewer of the film, I’ll recount this story how I saw it, and let’s be real--there is no way of presenting information.
The Facebook event for the screening was created by Respect For Life and described the documentary as “neutral” and “pro-information.” But by virtue of hosting the event as Fordham’s pro-life club, the documentary screening cannot be neutral and unpoliticized, even if it claims to be. With this in mind, members of Women’s Empowerment researched the film and found the information presented in it to be selectively included from a pro-life perspective.
This is where the title of the article, “Another Catholic University Fails its Pro-Life Students,” becomes laughably, if painfully, inaccurate. Respect for Life, a university recognized club at Fordham, was able to hold a school sanctioned event to present information of their choice in a manner of their choice--in this case, through the screening of HUSH. However, when Women’s Empowerment, a feminist club that is still not officially recognized by Fordham despite years of “negotiation,” and FSU+SAGES attempted to do the same--in this case, by standing outside the entrances of Keating with sex-positive signs and handing out cited information about abortion that we thought was purposely left out of the film--it has to be in the form of a student organized demonstration, and we were stopped by several people, including Fordham’s Public Safety, who scrutinized us regarding our permission to be expressing our views in this manner, despite getting the demonstration pre-approved by the administration. When we barred no one either physically or psychologically, Silver accused us of showing up “in full force carrying signs and intimidating students from entering to view the HUSH film screening,” as if the free speech of Fordham’s pro-life students were under attack.
It is incredibly apparent that Fordham, indeed a Catholic university, gives full support to its pro-life students, providing them with the resources they need to publically express their views. It is also incredibly apparent that Fordham fails it’s pro-choice students, while “pro-choice” is not an inherently an un-Catholic view. But even if it were, Fordham in its Jesuit mission statement claims that it “welcomes students, faculty and staff of all religious traditions and of no religious tradition as valued members of this community of study and dialogue” and “guarantees the freedom of inquiry required by rigorous thinking and the quest for truth.” By restricting the freedom of inquiry of students whose views do not align with the anti-choice movement, Fordham is failing to welcome these students as valued members of the community, whose first priority is thus not that of study and dialogue.
The HUSH documentary tries desperately to portray itself as non-political and simply pro-information, but from the beginning, it fails to hide the pro-life stitches holding together its cherry-picked patches of information regarding women’s health. Though I have not researched nearly as extensively as the makers of HUSH claim to have done, there are many indications that HUSH argues on the basis of pseudoscience. I could explain these to you at length, but a quick Googling of the film with some basic discretion for bias will tell you all you need to know.
After the screening, the floor was opened up for a Q&A with Silver, who was featured in the film. In regard to this segment, she remarked: “The protesters had a big laptop and used it to try to prove false various speakers in the film, asking me about them and denying their logic. I said I would answer questions asked in an orderly fashion, questions that had relevance to the film and were not of a religious or personal nature.” But the truth was, Silver was dismissive even of objective questions that were directly related to the film. For instance, HUSH repeated accuses national health institutions, such as the American Psychiatric Association and the National Cancer Institute, of withholding information regarding the link between abortion and breast cancer from the public. However, there is no explanation whatsoever as to what incentive these institutions would have for hiding this information. When I inquired about this missing element, my question was dismissed as “political” and “irrelevant” to the film, and several other audience members, even some members of Respect for Life, received similar dismissiveness in response to valid questions.
But from the accusation of “filling out their evaluation forms before the film began” to the ridiculous jab about the “big laptop,” what bothers me above all about this whole situation is how petty it has become. What should’ve been a discussion about a serious issue resulted in a petty argument whose ultimate goal was not to seek truth but to paint the opponent as the more biased party. The dualistic political faction-ing of every issue that affects Americans is perhaps our biggest obstacle to solving them, and the responsibility of having a productive conversation despite these divisions belongs to members of both “sides.” Knowing that we were in a space hosted by Respect for Life, perhaps my friends and I in FSU+SAGES should’ve considered ways to express our views that would make us seem less hypocritical, guilty of the exact dogmatism of which we accuse them. Though our frustrations were valid and our accusations of the use of false or biased scholarship in the film were essentially irrefutable, perhaps we should not have presented them in such a barrage as soon as the floor was opened, consuming a space that belonged to everyone. Most of all, I regret that after the film, there were people from Respect for Life who genuinely wanted to hear more about our dissenting views, but we left and discarded the rare and valuable opportunity to have a productive discussion. I so often hear people say that it’s useless trying to convince a pro-this person to believe in a pro-that movement, but maybe if we focused on discussing rather than convincing, it wouldn’t be so useless. I know this article didn’t really end the way that it began, but neither did my experience with this whole HUSH documentary screening situation.
So tldr: Fordham does not provide equal means for free speech to all of its students, the documentary HUSH poorly conceals its pro-life intentions under a pro-woman veil, and no matter what we believe, it’s more productive to listen to those who disagree with us than to prove that we are right.