By: Amber Faith Miller

To begin, you should know that I’m a third year student studying English and Theatre and Film. While I enjoy my program for the most part, some of my classes make me feel uncomfortable.

In mandatory film classes, I’ve been assaulted by disgusting images without warning. I had no way to protect myself from visual and emotional disturbances brought on by razor blades and guttural screaming. What would possess a professor to actually force students to experience this? My professors use these films as examples of contemporary art. In other words, I have to sit through the good or bad gruesome scenes for the sake of higher learning. I’m sure you could think of a time when an idea, image or activity in class made you feel uneasy. How do we deal with course content that we don’t like but cannot avoid?

Sometimes, when faced with an image or idea that they don’t like, some people choose to protest, and that’s good. The great thing about university is that varying opinions can coexist peacefully, and even interact respectfully.

How does one engage in productive discourse with an argument that they don’t approve of? It starts with acknowledging the person before judging their opinion. Imagine how dignified our debates would be if we actually listened to understand our opponent, instead of cutting them down while trying to have the last word. We are losing our ability to debate with friends, and our ability to stay friends with people whose ideas differ from our own.

“What do you think about abortion?” I genuinely want to know. It’s okay if your opinion differs from mine; the important thing is that we respect each other, while holding firm to our core values.

This past Thursday Oct. 9, McMaster Lifeline’s information table was set up in hopes of sparking a good conversation. Pro-choice advocates began to protest at the table beside us, which generated even more buzz. We engaged passers-by in interesting discussions focused on basic biology and human rights. Unfortunately, not all the protesters were willing to engage in any discussion about abortion. Instead, they summed up their views in four-word phrases and had some choice words to speak about the pro-lifers next to them, including the phrase “f— these people.”

“They have fetuses!” You probably don’t hear this phrase very often, unless you’re a medical student. As a group advocating for human rights, we show plastic models of humans in their earliest stages of development, from blastocyst to embryo to fetus. These 3D models by no means depict a gruesome image, but are a tool for learning how the pre-born develop in the uterus over the span of nine months.

If any of the pro-choice protestors wanted to know where we got these models, we gladly would have told them. Yet, they refused to speak with us, or even look at the images they were protesting. This makes me wonder whether these protestors wished to teach us or shame us.

You may disagree with some or all of the things I said in this article, but thank you for reading it regardless. I heard once that “everyone [in Canada] has the freedom of speech, but that doesn’t give one the right to be heard.” Expression of opinions and active listening are invaluable tools for expanding our horizons as students, and making our campus a true medium for free speech.

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