Oxford’s equality militants must reconnect with reality

by an LGBTQ student

Bigoted: “having or revealing an obstinate belief in the superiority of one’s own opinions and a prejudiced intolerance of the opinions of others”.

A perfect word to describe the militant hacks of Oxford’s Feminist and LGBTQ Societies and the ‘safe space’ they dictate.

‘Safe spaces’ are small bubbles where everybody gets to be a victim, endlessly moaning about the evils of the outside world. Each has their own vocabulary, spouting words like ‘patriachy’, ‘genderqueer’, ‘ex-gay’ and every -ism and -phobia under the sun. Other words are either deleted or appropriated, like ‘queer’ and ‘slut’, and the new language is policed to a 1984 Orwellian level.

The closed cliquey dynamic equips those involved with an artificial sense of security and a bizarre expectation for this language to propagate outside the group. Suddenly anyone with differing opinions is the enemy and a threat to the precious safe space. These people are the real bigots.

After two flame wars made front page news, it’s time to abandon this dynamic and instead celebrate our identities. There is a distinct difference between the extremist positions of groups such as fundamentalist Christians and the British National Party and a refusal to associate with a liberation movement.

As one of the University’s largest and most important societies, LGBTQ, has crumbled down to only the core that depend on it and it’s time to ask why students have turned away.

The answer I’ve been hearing left, right and centre: the small but vocal bigots who want a ‘safe space’ for everyone and end up with a space for no-one. Everyone is entitled to hold private beliefs, but not to enforce these on others, whether through a ‘safe space’ or otherwise.

My concern is also the damaging effect of these ‘safe spaces’. It’s easy to get sucked into the ideology (whatever it may be) and centre your social life around it.

There’s a real world out there, and in three years’ time that bubble of security is going to burst. If university societies have any welfare duty to their members, then preparing them for their future is paramount.

The University has a clear harassment code in place, and with good reason, but the ‘safe space’ bigots seek to overwrite this with their own code of conduct and procedures, which are ultimately poorly executed.

Why must we gather to discuss negative aspects of our identities when there are so many positive aspects to celebrate?To focus on petty differences in language and pronouns is to not see the wood for the trees.

Most of my gay, transgender or feminist friends don’t consider it a major part of their identity. It’s great to be proud of who you are, but if ‘safe spaces’ have left you bemused, I assure you you’re not alone. More spaces, no more ‘safe spaces’.

Cartoon/Jakob Rowlinson

Share/Bookmark

15 Responses to "Oxford’s equality militants must reconnect with reality"

  1. Anon  17/05/2012 at 22:57

    Regardless of the safe space issue, the lgbtq society committee has stranded its members this term. It has disabled posting-rights on their (our) facebook page, removing any possibility of spontaneous organisation, then only tabled half the usual number of events for Trinity. In order to have a safe space, you first actually have to have a space.

    I would have far more time for the professional offence takers if they did more (or even anything) to actually make lgbtq students’ lives easier in some way. If they think that it’s important to support the most marginalised then that’s fine, but I don’t see why they have to do that INSTEAD of holding weekly drinks events. There is no point at all in having high-minded abstract values if you cannot translate them into any tangible benefit for anyone who is lgbtq in Oxford.

    To my knowledge, the society doesn’t have a president. It doesn’t even have an entz rep. Lots of people really look forward to lgbtq events, but half of them this term have vanished. Faced with all of these things, I completely agree that whether or not it is offensive to be called a “girl” is a completely trivial issue.

    I hope that the president, whoever it is next term, has a better sense of priority than these clowns.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: +18 (from 48 votes)
  2. The Nerd  18/05/2012 at 00:56

    “There’s a real world out there”
    You know, they kept telling me that. They told me that at home, so I went to school. They told me that in school, so I joined the military. They told me that in the military, so I got a civilian job. Turns out, they were all full of shit. There is no “fake world” without fake people. Be real, and your world will be too.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: +13 (from 31 votes)
  3. Eleanor  18/05/2012 at 22:45

    Huh, how come the comments were deleted? When I looked yesterday there were about ten, from a range of viewpoints, and levels of agreement with the article, (though most disagreeing with it) and now they’ve all disappeared.
    …I wonder if this one will show up?

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: +1 (from 27 votes)
  4. Eleanor  18/05/2012 at 23:04

    This article is utterly enraging. “Petty” differences like pronouns, really? You seem to be arguing that because the world is homophobic and transphobic and full of shit, our words and our social practices should reflect this, so as not to create an “artificial sense of security”. I think there’s a lot of people, particlarly those who are visibly queer and don’t have the luxury of passing as ‘normal’ in day to day life would be pretty glad to have any kind of “security”, myself. Worldwide, someone transgendered is reported murdered every three days. Perhaps you have the luxury not to have to consider your sexuality or gender a “core part of your identity” and be able to focus on the positives.
    But for myself, I’m struggling to think of anything _more_ important for an LGBTQ Society to provide than safe spaces.

    Also, “LGBTQ, has crumbled down to only the core that depend on it” – well, yes, because those are the people that depend on it. -

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: +4 (from 56 votes)
  5. Sophie  19/05/2012 at 19:13

    Universities and student groups have historically been instrumental in changing wider attitudes towards issues like racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. Just look at America in the 1960s – a large part of the rights revolution took place in college campuses, and was then carried forward by college graduates when they entered the workplace. It is disingenuous and fatalistic to pretend that just because attitudes “out there” might not be what we would want them to be, that we must mimic those attitudes and not work to change them. Surely student groups such as the LGBTQ society have a role to play in “consciousness raising”?

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: +10 (from 22 votes)
  6. Tom Oakley  19/05/2012 at 21:23

    Let’s be very clear: the in-fighting started when an 18-year-old female undergraduate objected to the use of the word ‘girls’ to describe other female undergraduates. Cue influx of people broadly accusing everyone else of transphobia, and lots of unpleasantness. People started accusing other people of doing stuff they hadn’t done, and of saying things they never actually said.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: +6 (from 14 votes)
  7. Barbara Speed  19/05/2012 at 23:51

    Alex, you once said that you wouldn’t be happy with non-LGBT students attending LGBT soc events. How does this tie in with your view about ‘safe spaces’?

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: +6 (from 10 votes)
  8. Barbara Speed  20/05/2012 at 14:32

    Alex- this wasn’t part of an LGBTQ wide policy, but an arena in which you were voicing your own personal opinion about the purpose of the events, and you said you felt it was inappropriate for ‘straight’ people to attend.
    Barbara

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: +2 (from 10 votes)
  9. Anonymous  21/05/2012 at 13:00

    Fuuuuuuuuck yoooooooouuuuuuu

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: +4 (from 16 votes)
  10. Luke  28/05/2012 at 18:46

    i liked this article alex. i think the modern notion of victim is quite a destructive one, and causes all sorts of problems in practice (via its necessarily axiomatic position, i.e. either one is or isn’t a victim, when it’s quite clear that the status of victim is a bit more complex than that….). i wrote an article about something similar for the oxstu a while back, but of course, as foucault reminds us, the most powerful ideological effects are those which have no needs for words, and are treated with nothing more than complicitous silence,. to which we might add, self perpetuation of dominant symbolic orders.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: +1 (from 3 votes)
  11. Tim Bucktooth  30/05/2012 at 00:48

    Patriachy – not sure what that is, but in this context, I hate to think.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: -1 (from 1 vote)
  12. Chris R  08/06/2012 at 22:34

    What a laugh! When LGBT students are not taking offence at other people they are taking offence at each other. Sounds as if they spend most of their time quarrelling with somebody.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 6 votes)
  13. David Skinner  09/06/2012 at 00:03

    Well yes, I can see how the gays are transing from victim to champions, from a negative public image to a positive one – except that is, when it is convenient to play the victim card again. But bearing in mind that Foucault died of an AIDS-related illness in Paris on 25 June 1984, can someone tell me what is so good about homosexuality. I often hear LGBTQIXYZ’s saying that they need to tell everyone – even children-that being gay is good. Please tell, what are the advantages?

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: -5 (from 21 votes)
  14. Alice  10/06/2012 at 08:48

    I guess it took a little longer than normal for the comments thread to devolve into gay = AIDS.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: +4 (from 8 votes)
  15. Anon  15/06/2012 at 18:27

    The views of people such as David Skinner (above) are exactly the sort of thing that make it even more pertinent that the LGBTQ Society either is or becomes a society that takes itself and the issues it represents seriously.

    Failure to connect with serious issues, such as those posed by bigotry and hatred, is not something that should exist within the society. However, I think it questionable whether the “equality militants”, as they are referred to, are less more likely to ignore such issues simply because they also care about more subtle societal pressures that affect LGBTQ students.

    The ignorance of the hurt caused by using offensive terms is one of the root causes of so-called “serious” bigotry. If somebody objects to the term that they have been labelled with, (e.g. a woman feeling infantilised under the term ‘girl’), the correct response should be to apologize, try to understand why it is offensive, and not do it again. Even if one doesn’t believe in any worthwhile ideological use to the objection, this is just common courtesy, and encourages understanding between students about the issues that concern them.

    This debate has not been one of any real merit. The only objection to the “militancy” that is supposedly ruining the LGBTQ society has been made by a man who has shown no repentance for repeatedly offending his fellow students, and has allegedly attempted to exclude Transgender people from the society. I do not find his paranoid and victim-blaming article in the least bit interesting or meaningful within the context of the wider debate about the welfare of LGBTQ people at Oxford.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 2 votes)

Leave a Reply