Since writing about Claudia Clare’s exclusion from the forthcoming Ceramic Art London (CAL) exhibition at Central St Martins School of Art, I’ve learned more about the surrounding events. In 2020 Claudia proposed to talk at CAL about her project And the Door Opened, which is about women escaping the sex trade. At the time no-one objected, and when CAL was revived after a two-year break she was included in the programme. But this year Central Saint Martins said that they couldn’t permit her to talk because she breached their equal opportunities guidelines.
Claudia thinks that a person can’t change their sex by identifying as a person of a particular gender and that women’s rights are endangered by gender self-identification. Central Saint Martins appear to think (or to defer to the view) that holding that opinion is in itself a breach their equal opportunities policy and that a person who holds it can’t be allowed to talk on their premises. Claudia wasn’t actually billed to talk about gender but about women and prostitution, so it does look very much as if she’s been banned not because of what she was going to say but because of what she thinks. That’s about as close to Orwellian thoughtcrime as it’s possible to get.
Central Saint Martins thus put the event organisers, the Craft Potters Association, in a very difficult position: should they have pushed back and jeopardised the whole event or should they have agreed to curtail Claudia’s civil liberties?