We are proud to be part of the present anti-cuts movement. We believe that student occupations across the country are not only an effective tactic for making universities and the government take notice of us, but that they provide a space for discussion and political engagement that is inhibited by our everyday participation in a marketised education system.
There are some aspects of this campaign that we feel run counter to the overall aims of the movement. In particular, we have noticed a tendency, at demonstrations across the country, for slogans and banners to employ sexist language including graphic violent sexual imagery. Many of these are explicitly homophobic. We would like to highlight the proliferation of banners that figure rape as an act of political retribution. This is not acceptable. This kind of imagery is potentially triggering for members of our movement who have experienced sexual violence. Furthermore, we think that this kind of imagery and sloganeering reinforces oppressive structures from within society that, in fighting cuts, we are fighting to change.
Proposed cuts will have a disproportionate effect on women. For example, the cuts target service industries in which women form the majority of the workforce. In education in particular we have seen nurseries being cut from universities and FE colleges, making it harder for mothers to engage in education. Our politics must link up the fight against cuts with the broader fight against sexism, gender discrimination, and any form of gendered hierarchical divisions of labour.
The anti-cuts movement fights for a particular conception of social justice. We cannot trade off concerns about oppression, in all its manifestations, in the interest of focussing on a single issue. In order to fight effectively we have to be an inclusive movement; sexism, homophobia, racism, class discrimination, and all other forms of oppression limit the potential to build a genuine mass-movement. Together, we are stronger.
We have collectively agreed upon and implemented a safer spaces policy, as a framework for addressing these concerns within our space. The text, developed using the Camp for Climate Action’s policy as a template, can be found here.
We urge others to consider these issues, and to form their own group agreements within their individual spaces – we hope our agreement may be of some help as an example.