“PC gone mad?”

Trigger Warning: Homophobic assaults

 

The last year has seen many instances of police constables appear to have lost the plot on the student demo’s putting Alfie Meadow’s in intensive care.  Some people argue it was just down to a few bad police officers who made a mistake other a more fundamental problem with the police.  However the phrase “pc gone mad” is much more commonly associated with arguments about use of offensive language.  Right wing tabloids (like the News of the World before its unfortunate demise) like to denounce “liberals” for trying to control people’s lives when people object to the use of language offensive to people from liberation groups.

 

For example the use of the word gay has become for many to be just another generic term of abuse which many people use.  For people from within the LGBT community this can have very different connotations.  Shockingly poor sex education in schools today (legacy of homophobic section 28 law) means that for many they come across gay as a term of abuse before they come across someone from the LGBT community.  Continual use of this word as an insult makes it’s harder of LGBT people to come out and contributes to the marginalization they feel in society.  Using gay (or related words) as insults is not acceptable banter but actively harms your fellow students.

 

In our schools homophobic bullying is endemic around 80% of LGBT youth experience open homophobia at school mainly from other young people.  This can be challenged though, where schemes are in place to put forward positive role models and to effectively challenge homophobia this can be reduced by 60%.  Where this hasn’t happened it’s now down to us to challenge homophobia here.  Our university should be a place where people from all backgrounds are welcomed and feel fully able to express their sexuality without fear of abuse or attack.  Next time someone you know uses discriminatory language challenge them.

 

The reason for doing this is not to censor people’s thoughts or actions in some sort of totalitarian imposition of equality but due to real inequality that still exists in society.  LGBT people are far more likely to be bullied, to commit suicide or face assault in the street.  Only last year a man was beaten to death in central London and another man in Liverpool spent over a week in intensive care after a homophobic assault.  Hundreds of other smaller instances often go largely unreported.  The use of homophobic insults in wider society helps to perpetuate homophobia and gives confidence to violent bigots.

 

This is not just an issue for LGBT people.  Words such as whore, slut and bitch are all insults that are mainly applied to women and which have no male equivalent.  The use of such gendered insults helps perpetuate sexism in society and degrades women.  Thankfully racist language is now a less socially acceptable but also still exists in society and should be challenged.

 

The use of disablist language is something else that is something that many people do not realise is equally as offensive.  The use words such as retard, mong or spaz can appear hardly offensive at all but in fact they actually denigrate disabled people.

 

Challenging use of such language alone is not enough to be able defeat prejudice and discrimination in society but it is a start.  All students should be encouraged to stand up and challenge use of sexist, racist, disablist or homophobic language wherever they hear it.  We should demand the university takes homophobic bullying seriously and including LGBT equality within the syllabus.   Popular outcry abolished section 28 and got rid of the News of the World; if we fight together we can stamp out homophobic abuse and achieve liberation for all.


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