Posts Tagged ‘Unions’

TRIGGER WARNING: Rape, Misogyny, Abuse, Lad Culture

Edinburgh Students’ Union recently made a decision to ban the song ‘Blurred Lines’ by Robin Thicke. This has quickly led to many public debates on social networks, and of course, public debates already being planned by Students’ Unions around the country. However, it is the fact that these debates are even happening which makes me believe Edinburgh Students’ Union made a wise, and excellent, decision.

The song itself has been identified by organisations like Rape Crisis Scotland as a rape apologetic song which fuels rape culture. Edinburgh Students’ Union clearly identified it in the same way as have many women that I know personally.

For ages there have been articles in newspapers, books in the shops and feminists in public debates explaining and identifying that misogynistic behaviour still exists, that it may not be the same as before, but like a vicious viral disease, has evolved to be more resilient and immune to attempts to kill it off. We are living in a time where the glass ceiling is still there, lad mags are still objectifying women, songs like ‘Blurred Lines’ are still being produced and our eyes are daily arrested by advertisements that feed all of the above!

Ok so the average man wouldn’t walk up to a woman at university and say “Why are you in my lecture? This isn’t home economics or cooking lessons.” But that doesn’t mean we’ve eradicated the disease of Misogyny. It’s more discreet than that, and what’s worse, is that women are being socialised into Misogyny and wouldn’t always recognise it when they saw it! So much so, that they would even choose to defend a song such as ‘Blurred Lines’…

The standard quotes from these debates, by those defending the song, come down to the same old war cries of a misguided bunch of self proclaiming lefties:

“It’s censorship!”

“Unions are there for what the majority of the membership wants!”

“The song doesn’t hurt anyone! If they don’t want to listen to it, go somewhere else!”

“Where do we draw the lines?! What will we ban next!?”

I’m going to pick apart the above four quotes. Rather easily too.

The Censorship Argument
OxfordDictionary.com rather kindly gives definitions to words… Something I think people often forget. It defines censorship as “an official who examines books, films, news, etc. that are about to be published and suppresses any parts that are considered obscene, politically unacceptable, or a threat to security”.
I’d like you to read that definition again.

Since when was talking about blurred lines regarding consent, lyrics and videos that objectify women and rape apology anything other than “obscene, politically unacceptable, or a threat to [an individual’s] security”?

I know censorship is a loaded word and makes people feel awkward, somewhat scared and will entice them to quote history books but let’s face it… some things just need to be censored! If a union chooses to ban a song, people can still listen to it because it’s already been published… it just won’t be something you listen to at a union led event. Get over it.

The Membership Argument
Another point that I’ve seen getting made when responding to the refreshing, brilliant, wise, amazing (Am I giving myself away here…?) decision made by Edinburgh Students’ Union.
For the most part, on almost 90% of all cases made, I would agree with this statement. Unions are nothing without their membership, they are there to represent their needs (notice I didn’t say opinions…), and ensure that life is made better for them. It’s a mantra I hold dear and will always uphold whenever involved with a union.

Alas, let’s not forget that it is statistically certain that members of any union have experienced rape, misogyny, lad culture, abuse and many other disgustingly, detrimental, experiences not already listed. Unions are to ensure that they protect their entire membership and that includes triggers that could cause unwanted memories of events that the individual finds harmful to their mental well-being.

The banning of such a song will not harm those that want to listen to it but will protect those that do not want to or cannot listen to the song for whatever reason. Let’s not hide behind the façade of democracy, suggesting that this is a matter of representation, when it simply isn’t.

Oh… and if Edinburgh’s Conservative and Unionist Society are reading this then here’s me practicing my free speech: “You’re disgusting, make me glad that my university hasn’t got a society like yours, and I cannot believe that you’ve actually had the gall to trivialize such a matter into something as simple as ‘Free Speech’. My suggestion is you move to the moon so that this planet doesn’t have to be plagued by such a foul smelling rhetoric”. – Don’t you just love free speech guys!?

The ‘It Doesn’t Hurt Anyone’ Argument
Actually, it does. There are plenty (more than most people are willing to admit and that’s half the problem!) of members in any given Students’ Union that will have encountered experiences of rape, sexual assault and/or abuse and find misogynistic things very offensive and detrimental to their well-being. Not to mention the countless amount of demographics, notwithstanding those with religious convictions, that do not want to hear nor see the kinds of things they’d be subjected to through the song ‘Blurred Lines’ by Robin Thicke. The idea that people should go somewhere else when a union should be a safe space for its members is abhorrent.

It’s just simple fact and such a weak, poorly constructed, phallic argument needs nothing more than a mere paragraph to show it for what it really is.

The “Where do we draw the lines?!” Argument
This is yet another fairly simple argument to deconstruct and explain. We should draw the lines at anything that is harmful, obscenely offensive without need, rape apologetic, objectifying of women, misogynistic in general and likely to trigger a person to re-experience a horrific experience.

I’m sure there are others that would like to add to that list, I would welcome that, but in the context of this song and the debates that have ensued. This is where the line must be drawn.

I’m not going to sit here, like the keyboard warrior I love to be, and assume that I know the ins and outs of how detrimental this song can be. I am definitely not speaking for a feminist movement (I don’t believe men should do that either…) and I absolutely am not innocent in my past of being sucked into Lad Culture (The evil hoover that it is).
I will sit here and vehemently oppose anything that is how I’ve outlined above and ask men and women who defend it a few questions like:

“Since when did rape culture become art and an act of someone’s free speech?”

“How is the objectification of women, and rape apology, in any way empowering for women?”

“Did you ever stop to think that just because a woman says it’s ‘empowering’ and that’s why they directed the video, that doesn’t mean it is?”

“Why is it that socialisation is a term that is thrown around by liberal lefties when talking about class, but never when talking about lad culture, misogyny and rape apology?”

Edinburgh made a Stirling decision (Hope that didn’t offend them too much!). The fact that they made a stand against something that has been identified as rape apology and misogynistic by many people whilst at the same time sparking off debates which shows culture for how misguided and blind it has truly become is no small feat. I applaud the officers at that union for making one of the most land mark decisions of their time leading their Students’ Union.

I look forward to seeing my Students’ Union Students’ Council get to a point where it too can make such decisions and not be scared of the repercussions that may or may not follow. Let’s hope the University of Central Lancashire students get to a point where they will finally have a consciousness raising (as Dawkins would so lovingly describe) high enough to see this song for what it really is. Disgusting.

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Today, across the country, teachers are on strike. Both NASUWT and NUT Unions have called for teachers to do this and send a clear message to the Government over the changes and cuts they are making to the education system.

Today, I’m seeing a flood of people on Twitter and Facebook calling teachers selfish and money grabbing. Some people have even used the classic argument of “Don’t they get enough holidays?”.

I’m writing this as a clear supporter of the strikes. It’s clear that Gove has been attacking the education system and is making changes that are ill-founded, not researched and lacked consultation with professional experts. However, I also want to blow a few poorly constructed arguments against the strike out of the water.

The first poor argument: to say that teachers get too much holiday is an absolute joke and further proves to show that people do not understand the work they actually have to do. On average, they’re teaching 9am – 3pm each day; but do people seriously think that’s the end of their working day?

Teachers have to do lesson planning, marking, consultations with parents, strategy meetings and regular training (I’m sure I’ve missed stuff out!). At the same time, if we want a good education for future generations then these teachers also need to choose to comment, get involved in and start discussions with those in power about the system. As someone that has engaged with those in power this year, been involved in national policy making and lobbied MP’s – let me tell you that it takes a lot of time and effort (not to mention the travelling!) to get that done.

Teachers may get “long” holidays, but the amount of hours they’re putting in each week makes up for it. Think of it as ‘Time in Lieu’.

The second poor argument: To suggest that these strikes are about increasing teachers wages and giving them better pensions is again a poor argument indeed. Both unions have clearly stated the reasons behind this are to send a message to the Government.

If teachers do not get involved now and start putting their arguments forward then we’re faced with a system that could not just turn future generations away from education but also damage the economic and structural stability of the country because we’ll have generations of children forced back into an industrialised culture where the rich are in power and the poor are ordered around. History tells us how that ends up… and if you’ve not read a history book then let me give you a one word clue – ‘Blood’.

Alas, what is wrong with teachers wanting more pay? I think it’s abhorrant that bankers, MP’s, Private Company Directors etc get paid the salary they’re on. The majority of whom are there because of teachers that educated them as children. We should pay teachers more and should bloody well thank them – DAILY!

Our teachers are doing this because they believe passionately in creating a good system that engages children, helps them explore and develop who they are and empowers them to be the change makers of the future. It’s about ensuring that education enables them creatively and allows them to cultivate a future for themselves.

General Secretary, Chris Keates, of NASUWT said:

“Over the last three years, the coalition government has mounted savage attacks on teachers’ pay, pensions and conditions of service. The responsibility for today’s action rests with the failure of the secretary of state to engage in meaningful negotiations. To justify these attacks and education reforms, the secretary of state has sought to denigrate teachers and present our public education system as broken. As a result the teaching profession is now in crisis. The responsibility for driving teachers to take industrial action rests entirely with an arrogant, reckless secretary of state who is determined to sacrifice teachers, pupils and our public education service on the altar of his own flawed ideology.”

I feel that Chris has summarised the issue fairly well and clearly explained the reasoning behind the strikes.

So if you’re reading this and you don’t agree with the strikes, then that’s fine – but please don’t comment and use poor arguments that show a complete lack of understanding. If you’ve read this and any of this resonates with you – and if you believe in the need for a decent education system – but don’t know what the change should be… then watch the following video and use that as a the frame for all your thinking.

Ken Robinson – Changing Educational Paradigms.

Feel free to comment.

Edd Graham-Hyde