Mireille Miller-Young, an associate professor of feminist studies at UC Santa Barbara, has been charged with theft, battery and vandalism after she stole a sign from anti-abortion protesters on campus and then destroyed.
During the fracas, Miller-Young allegedly scratched and pushed a 16-year-old girl who was one of the anti-abortion protesters.
According to the Santa Barbara Independent, on March 4, Miller-Young was approached by protesters from an anti-abortion group Survivors Of The Abortion Holocaust — who are apparently just a pair of sisters named Joan Short and Thrin Short— on campus. Like a lot of extremist anti-abortion groups, they were holding signs/posters with graphic, bloody images of alleged aborted fetuses. After exchanging “passionate” words with the protestors, the Independent reports, Miller-Young took one of their 4″-x-5″signs and then took it back to her office to destroy it with scissors, along with some of her students.
In her police report, Miller-Young, who is pregnant, said she was “triggered” by the graphic imagery on the posters and felt she had a “moral right” to get rid of it. She also said other students on campus felt “triggered” by the signs. Yet Miller-Young appears to smile and laugh during the entire video, at one point turning around to tell at the camera, “I may be a thief but you’re a terrorist.” A student filming (apparently one of the Short sisters) gets shoved during the filming and someone, I think Miller-Young, says “I don’t care!)
Claiming to be “triggered” by offensive imagery is one thing, but stealing and destroying it is a complete violation of free speech. And shoving/scratching a teenaged girl is fucking ridiculous. Miller-Young’s statement to police continues:
I asked Miller-Young what crimes she felt the pro-life group had violated. Miller-Young replied that their coming to campus and showing graphic imagery was insensitive to the community. I clarified the difference between University policy and law to Miller-Young and asked her again what law had been violated. Miller-Young said that she believed the pro-life group may have violated University policy. Miller-Young said that her actions today were in defense of her students and her own safety.
No, actually that’s called “vigilante justice.” Does Professor Miller-Young understand that all of us who support reproductive rights find graphic abortion imagery disgusting and odious? Feminists don’t get to rip signs away from people we don’t like and tear them up just because we think morally superior. If this professor had concerns that the anti-abortion protesters did not belong on campus — maybe graphic imagery is only supposed to be displayed in a certain area on campus? — there are formal avenues for Miller-Young to address that.
It’s unclear to me what blogs who support Professor Miller-Young, like The Feminist Wire, mean by their claim she was “challenging anti-abortion violence” by behaving violently herself. Their signs are horribly offensive; that does not mean they are inherently violent. Additional reasons are not explained in any of the news articles I’ve read, but if there were violent actions occurring or violent threats being made from the anti-abortion protesters, there are formal avenues for Miller-Young to address that.
Stealing, vandalism, battery and stifling free speech isn’t my feminism or my activism. Professor Miller-Young claims to have acted because she was protecting herself and her students from odious protesters, but it looks to me like she just had a tantrum. Not only does it make herself look unhinged and silly, but her behavior badly reflects on the rest of us who support reproductive justice .
Email me at Jessica@TheFrisky.com. Follow me on Twitter.