Shortly after students unfurled a banner above Pardall Tunnel on Tuesday afternoon declaring that “Feminism is Cancer,” passersby congregated around the tunnel at UC Santa Barbara, forming several pockets of heated arguments.
Members of the student group Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) held the 16-by-4 banner above the tunnel for about two hours because university posting rules forbid fixing a banner of that size to the wall.
The banner’s text is the name of an upcoming lecture by Breitbart journalist Milo Yiannopoulos, who said on Twitter that his UCSB event “will blow your minds.” The lecture is at 7 p.m. on Thursday in Corwin Pavilion and is sponsored by YAL.
Students and faculty walked and biked under the tunnel, many stopping to shout at the students holding the banner, either in support or disgust.
“You have more balls than I do,” said one man as he patted a YAL member on the back. Another man said he supported the group’s message but feared being associated with them publicly.
Dozens of students stood on the Isla Vista side of the tunnel, arguing over issues including abortion, rape statistics and the definition of feminism.
YAL President Dominick DiCesare, a second-year computer science major, said the group hoped to spur a conversation about feminism on campus.
“What came from [the banner] is seven or eight groups of people having their own productive discussions,” DiCesare said. “I will admit it is Machiavellian by all extents, but the fact that it gets people discussing academically on campus is most important for me.”
DiCesare said Yiannopoulos is a “provocateur,” and so “it makes sense that the event’s advertisements would be as provocative as the event.”
Beneath the tunnel, many students disagreed that the banner resulted in constructive conversations.
“These people aren’t trying to have a productive conversation in any way,” said a third-year zoology major who declined to give her name. “There are two different groups that are having this conversation and they’re both just yelling at each other.”
Maria Velez, a second-year political science and feminist studies double major, said she planned on going to Yiannopoulos’s event to show her disagreement. Velez said comparing feminism to cancer is distasteful.
“I just finished being a team leader for Relay For Life, where the university raised thousands of dollars for cancer, and now [YAL] is using the term so lightly,” she said.
Several UCSB students responded to the banner on Twitter.
is the “feminism is cancer” sign supposed to be positive cause feminism is spreading or is it saying it’s bad cause it’s compared to cancer?
— Mica (@micapica96) May 24, 2016
Someone put a “feminism is cancer” poster on pardall tunnel.. I hate y’all
— sol (@_cacarot) May 24, 2016
what is this trash???? pic.twitter.com/nUv2giFGTk
— moy (@villegas_moy) May 24, 2016
Jason Garshfield, a fourth-year political science major and former YAL vice president, yelled to passing students from the top of the tunnel as he held a corner of the banner.
“Dr. Milo is giving out free cancer vaccines,” Garshfield said. “I can tell some of you have a strong case of feminism.”
While Garshfield said cancer is “not a perfect analogy” for feminism, he said that feminism “is something that spreads rapidly and is a parasitical movement.”
Garshfield said there are forms of feminism he agrees with, like legal equality for men and women, but he believes that the majority of feminists at UCSB are propagating false rape statistics and infringing on men’s due process rights.
“Before YAL came to campus, there was only one opinion that you could say,” Garshfield said. “Now, there are two. Moderates might say, ‘I don’t agree with those YAL people, but I do have problems with feminism.’”
One UCSB student encouraged bystanders to walk to the area above Pardall Tunnel and speak with the YAL members holding the banner.
“They’re not as crazy as they seem,” she said.