The NUS has had a variety of conferences lately, including the NUS Women’s conference this week and the NUG LGBT conference the week before. It is quite clear that the NUS stands not for the rights of students or for the support of academics and intellectuals, it aims to stifle debate, prevent learning and silence dissent. The NUS could be and should be a wonderful institution, one that stands by all students, Male, Female or Transsexual, and treat each as valuable human beings (as each are). Instead we see this backwards attempt at being as inclusive as possible, which ends up making it exclusive of all but those who are willing to promote the appropriate narrative.
Women are regularly told to be seen but not heard, attractive and quiet and not to take up space, this is a part of the socialisation into the subjugated position as a Woman in society, NUS Women’s conference decided to ban the attendee’s from clapping, under the banner of preventing triggering anxious speakers. This is clearly some kind of attempt to be inclusive and you cannot deny that the NUS had good intentions in doing this, but in reality it does nothing but continue to tell Women to be quiet, this is not something I can stand for, along with overall making a mockery of the whole conference. These conferences have continued on this line by continuing to suggest that dissenting voices, or any voices which go against the prescribed narrative, must be silenced, this is evidenced by the renewal of the motion to no platform Julie Bindle, all because of some comments she made in the past, and has even since apologised for! This is a clear attempt to slowly strangle women until they relent and refuse to speak up, every time the NUS or associated Student Union’s on campuses across the country no platform women’s voices, they are perpetrating the idea that women should not speak up against things they disagree with, instead silently go along with what everyone else wants, because women are caring and quiet individuals who are more than happy to bend their own morals to make others happy.
There are various aspects of these motions that I can pick up, the silencing of Kate Smurthwaite for refusing to believe prostitution and sex work should be legalised is one of many examples where dissenting women’s voices are being refused a platform. There are clearly cases where no platforms are important, places where inciting violence or inciting racial hatred are clear results of a talk being given, but if these same rules are being used to consistently silence non-threatening people who simply hold opposing views it becomes clear that we have to stand up to and question the validity of the no-platform process as a whole, as is the case with sweeping anti-terrorism laws where laws are brought in with good intentions and end up being used to chip away at the livelihoods and rights of non-threatening people. This is what I see happening every week within the NUS, there is an accepted narrative and those who disagree with constantly have to watch their mouths and be careful to not step too far out of the lines drawn up by a small but vocal minority for fear of pile-on’s and call outs. I dared to suggest on twitter that “NUS LGBT 15” does not speak for me, and that the support of decriminalisation of prostitution puts women at risk, within minutes I had various very vocal members of the “social justice” community calling me out, telling me I should have been there if I want to have an opinion, and that if I’d have been there I’d know why no-platforming Bindle is vital the safety of the LGBT community (etc etc). It’s relentless and even though what I experienced was very minor, it bothered me so much I felt I had to shut up and lock down my twitter. This is a cult like attitude used to silence others, mob-like actions just culminate in a culture of fear, and I worry, as a student, that it is not long before the NUS will act not as a movement for all students and more a political tool to manipulate people into espousing and promoting a specific narrative, one that is nothing short of misogynist.