A little note from us on why you should come to Reclaim the Night

Tonight, courtesy of Journalism Society, Milo Yiannopoulos and Rebecca Reid will debate ‘Have we reached an age of gender equality?’

Also tonight, women and men will take to the streets to ‘Reclaim the Night’ – a national march to reclaim the streets and take a symbolic and physical stand against sexism.

In short, we haven’t reached an age of gender equality.

Don’t believe me? Read any TWSS article, google ‘equality’, ask your sister or your mother, switch on BBC Parliament and look at the number of women in the chamber, google the CPS reports on responses to Domestic Violence, think back to how many women were mentioned in your History, English or Science GCSE, ask yourself: do I feel safe on the streets at night? If no, why is that?

In fact, the UBJS event itself acts as a contributor to this inequality, as the transphobic and quite frankly scary views of Yiannopoulos undermine, even deny, the gender identity of any trans students and individuals.

The LGBT+ Society have shared with us their statement in response to the debate:

‘Online commenters are launching into varying arguments about free speech, feminism and misogyny, whilst perhaps the greatest, or most obvious, problem here is that a speaker who readily uses transphobic language has been invited into the university.

‘Transphobic language cannot be shielded by the argument of free speech: it is hate speech. If the speaker used racist terms, or homophobic language, there would be little question over whether he/she should be welcomed into the university. Furthermore, if the talk was on ‘race politics’ we’d be left wondering why in this century the event is even taking place.

‘Instead, transgender students are being told to accept that people are allowed to criticise their existence, under the guise of “freedom of expression.” Everyone has the right to give their opinion; nobody has the right to use transphobic, homophobic, racist, sexist, or any other discriminatory language to do so. All people deserve a basic level of respect.

‘If we accept the speaker into our university, we teach students that hate speech is still okay, but only if towards certain minorities where their social and existential acceptance is still recent enough to come under harsh debate.

‘The LGBT+ society has fought incredibly hard, and rightfully so, for the acceptance of transgender students within Bristol University. We have held campaigns for gender neutral toilets, and for the safety of transgender/non-binary students within public bathrooms. To now allow a platform to a transphobic speaker, who can throw around transphobic language online without consequence, is an insult to and complete disregard for the students that we have worked so hard to protect and reassure within their own place of study.’

When the original event welcoming Yiannopoulos surfaced, FemSoc released a statement boycotting the event as it is incompatible with the Union’s safe space policy, which ‘means that each and every member should feel welcome to participate in empowering, non-judgemental and non-threatening discussions, activities, services or events free from threats, intimidation, harassment – and free from fear of these – and the deliberate, or negligent, creation of unsafe or unwelcoming conditions.’

So, unlike the misinformed online opinion spurting the idea that trans students would not be in physical danger as a result of the event (which is not necessarily true) so the Safe Space policy is not violated, the policy itself more broadly includes ‘non-judgemental, ‘non-threatening’ and ‘empowering’ discussions – meaning it is about the way students are made to feel emotionally, not just physically.

In an interview with ‘Full Offence’, Charlie Oxborough, LGBT+ Soc’s President, explains why this case is bigger than the specificities of the safe space policy:

‘I think that fundamentally this has very little to do with intricate details and interpretations of the Safe Space Policy. However, it’s certainly not just down to students’ comfort. The use of transphobic speech boils down to being hate speech – something that is generally rejected in society. Throughout all the discussions and arguments, you have to wonder whether the event would even have been considered in the first place if Milo were to be an outspoken racist, or homophobe. The university, and I am sure the Journalism Society, would undoubtedly ban such a speaker from holding an event – hate speech of those forms are wholly unacceptable. Yet in this case, with transphobic speech, we talk about ‘comfort’ and ‘safety’, as if this is something that transgender people should still have to put up with.’

Read the full article with Charlie here: https://fulloffence.wordpress.com/2015/11/19/bristol-uni-lgbt-president-defends-prosecuting-milo-yiannopoulos-in-interview-3/

Reclaim The Night is an empowering, moving and wholly necessary example of mass opposition to the gender inequality that, yes, exists.

Join us tonight, not to ask ‘have we reached an age of gender equality?’, but instead to recognise that we haven’t, and to shout out ‘We will!’

TWSS x x x

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