Interview with Spotted: Glasgow Uni Library

Published

Following the recent controversy surrounding the resurgence of the Facebook page Spotted: Glasgow Uni Library, Glasgow Guardian invited the administrators of the page to take part in an anonymous interview to answer accusations of sexism, targeting students, and their contradictory views on freedom of expression.

The following interview includes some discussion of ‘rape culture’.

Guardian: Why did you create this Facebook page?

Spotted: The page was created not last December but the December before. There was another university – Dundee or Edinburgh – that had created one and they gave us the idea. We thought it would be smart to get in on the act quickly; there were a couple of rivals to the page but we won in the end. Now we have 10,500 likes and we are here, being interviewed by you.

Guardian: There has been quite a lot of controversy over this page. How did the University originally respond to the Facebook page?

Spotted: They said it was sexism, cyberbullying, a breach of student privacy and a breach of student conduct. We have responded to the latter two and the University is happy with us no longer posting pictures up to reveal identity and the page holds anonymity to a very high regard.

With regards to the accusations of sexism that have been highlighted in recent days since the page has gained activity again, as we have already stated elsewhere, the reaction is simply a typical one of feminists. I am reluctant to brand feminism in this way – it shames the school of thought. However, the members of the Isabella Elder Feminist Society have displayed oversensitivity to the issue and have defined themselves as victims, which is simply not the case.

It should be known that we have had a multitude of other feminists messaging in, actually claiming that their ‘whiny’ reaction is a misrepresentation of feminism. The word whiny is not my own choice of words. What should be recognised is that any exemplification of the supposed misogyny can be matched with misandry.

I am fully aware that two wrongs do not make a right; however, it simply shows that the feminists have no leg to stand on. Whenever their male counterparts have had just as many posts which could be considered harassing, it speaks for itself. What we really have is a number of horny 18+ boys and girls sometimes objectifying the other sex. What the feminists have gone on to say is that this evokes rape and the male sex are all pigs. Pathetic.

Guardian: Could you go into a little more detail about what the university have threatened you guys with doing?

Spotted: On two occasions they have threatened academic removal from the university, academic procedures being taken against both of us, and to contact the police.

Guardian: Why do you persist in running and posting on the page when you are clearly concerned that you are going to be exposed as the administrators?

Spotted: Firstly, I would like to make it clear that we will never be exposed as admins. On contacting Facebook, admin roles of pages will not be exposed. If the police get involved, they have no business in doing so. [They can] shut down the page, [but] not expose the admins. This is because we are not doing anything wrong; we are merely expressing the views of 10,500 people in the library. This is nothing to do with us and therefore we cannot be punished for being merely the mediators of Glasgow University views.

We believe that the anonymity behind us wearing bags over our faces is because, firstly, it is hilarious and, secondly, it is the right thing to do. It would be against our principles just to simply get up and walk away. We have a duty, you could say, to express the views of Glasgow University and I think it is unfair to be scaremongered into removing the page.

Guardian: In general, what is your response to the allegations of sexism from the feminist societies and from the SRC?

Spotted: As I have said before, I believe that we have a group of university students who are clearly objectifying the other sex. What the feminists have gone on to say that this evokes rape and the male sex are all pigs. I think it is quite a pathetic line of argument and what should be recognised is that any exemplification of misogyny should be, or could be, matched with misandry. So, I don’t see their argument.

Two wrongs don’t make a right but if males aren’t complaining about it, I don’t see how women can complain about it. Before you go on to say that girls are more perceptible to rape, you can be adamant for equality but you can’t say that they are to be equal and we are not. You could say that women are a less physical gender, but you could not possibly say then that this page condones a rape culture.

We are talking about one of the posts, the one about a man performing a lewd act in a toilet – and that lewd act is far removed from the act of rape. You cannot possibly say that the views expressed by Glasgow University students expressing their natural attraction towards the other sex is rape.

Guardian: You’ve talked about this page being, in your words, ‘a bit of harmless fun during the exam season,’ but students have spoken about feeling nervous about coming into the library since the page has restarted. Would you not consider that it is a harm to these students?

Spotted: We don’t hold the opinion that women are legitimately scared of going into the library. We don’t believe this. They are saying that they are and we can’t prove otherwise but we don’t believe women are actually scared of going into the library.

There are arguments that they could be scared from some posts, but what we have said to the University, and what we have stated publicly, is that the page has deleted five admins, one of which was the perpetrator of four different statuses.  The statuses were extremely offensive and it just happened to be towards the female sex. They have now been deleted and four main points are part of a new policy for the page. This includes no more offensive language and returning to this idea of ‘friendly banter’.

We are taking on a new image and we respect the people who are scared, not because of what we are posting at the moment or the majority of what we have posted in the past, but certainly there is a minority of posts that they may well been scared of. These posts are now deleted and there will be no more posts of that kind.

Guardian: You made a poll about whether or not to keep the page online. The majority of the responses have been for ‘definitely not’. Why have you kept the page up after this?

Spotted: If you go onto the group page of the Isabella Elder Feminist Society, you can see that one of the students has explicitly said that he had been posting illegitimate poll-rigging votes. That whole poll isn’t accurate at all. In the first 20 minutes, 71% of the votes were in favour of keeping the page up and we think that this is a more accurate representation of what the majority of students want.

Another student mentioned in that conversation about how the poll had been rigged from one flat. I live in the west end, not in an industrial street in the middle of Glasgow. Unless there is some forty year old factory worker that supports our cause, we had nothing to do with that. We would just discount the whole poll.

Guardian: Yesterday you put up a petition, in response to another against your page, to keep the facebook page up. Can you tell me a little more about that?

Spotted: I believe that the original petition was ridiculous. What is Professor Anton Muscatelli is ever going to do? He might evoke the powers of the great University, but realistically they have no legal argument to make us take down the page. With regards to the principle of freedom of expression, which we said we believed was being tarnished, the page will not be shut down.

The page holds around 10,500 likes, the majority of which are in agreement with what the page posts and what it stands for. That is, light-hearted humour. The nature of humour is sometimes offensive – people need to get over that. That is no legal crime. Offensive is the nature of comedy – go watch Frankie Boyle and persecute him if you want. Where freedom of expression comes into it, in my opinion, is that the views expressed are interpreted entirely subjectively when they are seen as misogyny. To shut down the page would be to deny these people what they expect. That is a breach of freedom of expression.

Guardian: You state you believe that to shut down the page would be against freedom of expression, but you have blocked people from commenting on the Facebook page. Does this not go against freedom of expression?

Spotted: To take for example, one student I blocked, the reason I did so was because she falsely accused us of rigging a poll. I do not have the time to go through a poll and vote separately 600 separate times. She accused us of being sad and cringey. It is people like that I ban. There these people who are expressing their views, but rather than censoring them being against freedom of expression, it’s more that I just couldn’t be bothered reading what they have to say on every single post. That’s very different from shutting down a page with 10,500 likes.

Guardian: Why do you think that blocking people from a page and not letting them speak on the matter isn’t against freedom of expression?

Spotted: Well, it’s against freedom of expression to try and shut down a page with 10,500 likes because they have interpreted some of the posts as misogyny. However, when I am banning people, it is not because I don’t want to hear of their views being seen. Their views aren’t being broadcast for everyone to see. My views are being broadcast. That’s why 10,500 people ‘like’ me and not them. If they want to speak they can go and start a feminist page and have 600 people. They can go there, so that is different to shutting me down. I’m shutting them down because it is annoying, not because I don’t want their views to be heard. They can make their own page.

Guardian: Whether or not you want their views to be heard, surely it’s against freedom of expression to stop them being able to speak?

Spotted: It is against freedom of expression if Spotted: Glasgow Uni Library was some sort of public forum, but it isn’t. We are doing our own posts. It is not a debate, I don’t care about debate; but to shut down us would be against freedom of expression. To shut down them, it’s just because I can’t be bothered reading what they have to say. I am against their views but it’s more annoyance rather than censoring them.

Guardian: So you believe it’s okay for you to express yourself, but not for others to be able to do the same?

Spotted: That’s exactly it. I am here to express myself to people. If [you] wish to express [yourself], [you] can go somewhere else to do it.